Fear and Loving in Vancouver

vancouver-trip

I love Canada and especially Vancouver. It has quickly become one of my favorite destinations. It’s far enough that I feel I see a completely different culture, but it is also close enough that I don’t get too homesick and start to feel like a tourist. It also retains that big city feel, without feeling like a giant metropolis unlike New York. The people are generally very friendly.

Stanley Park and the West End

The drive out to Vancouver was pretty relaxing, and we stopped at the West End first. This is an extremely popular place for tourist and the locals. It was likewise my wife’s favorite spot. She absolutely loved the beauty of the 1000 acre park that is known as Stanley Park. My wife loved walking the trails and seeing nature and the totem poles peppered around the park. I preferred the little train that rode around the park. It was a relaxing ride. I wanted to have a beer on it, but my wife heavily discouraged me. However, the best part of Stanley Park is the Vancouver Aquarium. It simply must not be missed, because they have an amazing array of animals.

City Centre

This is the downtown area of Vancouver, and it did not disappoint. We left the R/V near Stanley Park as we were warned that traffic in the city center would be quite packed. So we optioned for a bus instead. There is so much to see and do here I couldn’t possibly list them all. The city has a laid back atmosphere that is evident everywhere you go. The Vancouver Lookout is a must. This 360 panoramic view of Vancouver is on the top floor of the Harbour Centre.

We stopped by a little restaurant called “New Amsterdam Cafe”. If you didn’t know, the attitudes towards marijuana here are very lax. You will see people smoking everywhere, and this cafe is one of those that allows patrons to smoke. We were told it was illegal to do this, but that it was hardly enforced. It seemed to be in a grey area of “we don’t see, we don’t know”. However, the coffee and service there was great, but there’s a reason why Vancouver is called “Vansteram”.

Some of the restaurants downtown are rather expensive, and we decided to splurge for once. We stopped at Hy’s Encore, which offered some of the best steaks I have ever had. The service was amazing, I felt like I was being treated like movie star or crooked politician. We also tried The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Vancouver for a more affordable place to eat. This is a school where you pay $10, and the students cook for you. The food there was surprisingly good, especially given that they were students.

Gastown/Chinatown

This is the oldest part of Vancouver and must be experienced before leaving. We were also told to avoid driving here as the parking in the area would be expensive (if we could find any). So we walked. The first thing you notice is that the streets are still made of cobblestone and retain that classic, aged feeling. While this may be the local Chinatown, there are plenty of non-oriental places to eat at. Our favorite was an old pub called “The Irish Heather”. They serve a delectable pheasant, but the main draw is that this is the only place in all of Vancouver where you can find a pint of Guinness!

Such a great city, I just wish I had more time to see it all.

Windsor: Multiculturalism at its Best

The city of Windsor is located in Ontario, Canada. It is strategically situated to the opposite of the Detroit River, and has so much going on there. In Windsor, you can find almost everything amazing, right from breath-taking entertainment, beautiful parks, and ancient landmarks to extraordinary food. The city has been ranked 5th in the charts of Canada when it comes to multiculturism. Windsor has harbored people of all walks of life, giving them a place to call home.

If you’re looking forward to spending your weekend there, then here are a handful of activities you might wanna try out such as when we visited.

Day 1

For a mouth-watering breakfast, wake up and head straight to Paul’s Kitchen or Suzi’s Grill Cafe. These restaurants will not disappoint you a little bit. They serve all sorts of breakfast delicacies including the usual pancakes, eggs benedict, and omelletes. Be sure to check out the amazing daily specials they offer.  The two restaurants are located right across from each other, giving you an easy time to choose between them.

After taking breakfast, you can head to the “Artist Alley” where you will be able to see different types of amazing street art and paintings. The sight of these pieces of art is just breath-taking, and portrays pure talent. There is usually a Farmers Market here every Saturday as from 8am to 1pm.

Another amazing destination is the Walkerville Brewery. You are definitely going to enjoy this visit if you’re a beer lover. A couple of my favorites included the Scotch ale as well as the local favorite, Waterfront Wit. It can be a little bit difficult to locate this place since there are many other buildings in that address, and they are not arranged in order.

Wind up your tour on a high note at the distillery with a whiskey tasting at around 1 to 3 pm, which will have you psyched up for the next destination.It’s now time to explore the history of Windsor. Head to the Olde Walkerville, where you will see buildings that have remained standing since 1850. These buildings were erected to house people who worked at the distillery. This place therefore has a significant relationship with the distillery.

If you need something to eat as you continue with your exploration, then try the Windsor Pizza. One thing you might not know is that Windsor has a pizza shop (Arcata) that is ranked third in the whole world for their mouth-watering pizzas. Their unique Galati cheese, mushrooms and shredded pepperoni are used as ingredients, making customers come back for more.

For the rest of the day, you can have an amazing experience at the Urban Surf, situated in Tecumseh, a 20 minutes’ drive from Windsor. There, you will be able to do some kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding. They also have sailboats, and for $150 CAD, you can get to enjoy the sailboat for a whole day.

If you are looking for a perfect place to have your dinner, then you can visit the nearby Mamo Burger Bar, or get some delicacies at Johnny Shotz. The Grand Cantina is also a choice if you feel like eating Mexican food.

Day 2

Wake up to delicious smoothies at the Urban Surf before heading to your next destination. You can make a stopover at Taboola Café for a cup of coffee or tea to top up on your smoothie. Immediately after your breakfast, head to the Windsor’s Sculpture Park. It lays parallel to the Detroit River. It is a beautiful place to be on a summer morning, with interesting sculptures to view. Later on, you can head to the Art Gallery of Windsor to view their beautiful exhibits. There are interesting exhibitions going on there till the 30th of this month; the Andy Warhol exhibit and the Contemporary Sandwich shop, which showcases sandwich-inspired art.

Light up your mid morning at the Sandwich Brewing Co. or Walkerville Brewery once again by enjoying a pint of cold beer. Pass by the local Sandwich District and explore their historical delicacies. After that, you can head to the Ford City. It is an old community which dates back to early 1900s, and was built by Ford Motor Company. If you still have energy left in you, take a tour with WindsorEat. They offer a wide array of food and drink tours through the city. This will give you an ultimate experience of what the city is all about as you wind up your tour at Windsor.

Notes

While Julia and I enjoyed the sights and sounds of Windsor, there is one sight which we aren’t too keen on reliving anytime soon. At the small bed and breakfast we stayed at, we had an unwanted visitor our final morning. While brushing her teeth, Julia noticed something scurrying quickly across the tile floor out of the corner of her eye and going behind the toilet. Her scream told me that she wanted me to investigate.

Credit: ridmycritters.com

I peaked behind the toilet and saw this HUGE spider about 3cm long. Since I wasn’t in a position to squish it (nor did I want to), I quickly Googled what it could be. Turns out it was a wolf spider! It actually sounds scarier than it is but supposedly they’re fairly common around Ontario. Unlike a typical small house spider, getting rid of a wolf spider is a bit trickier. Since it was our last morning there, we decided to just let the owner handle it. Still not sure how they actually got rid of it, but we were back on the road by then.

Where to Next? (Poll)

Well, summer is fast approaching and we’re starting to make plans on visiting some great new spots. With so many amazing cities and towns we have yet to explore, we’d love to have our readers help select our next destinations. If you can take a couple seconds to respond to our poll, we would be most grateful. Happy travels!

Coming Soon

There’s no Place Like Victoria

victoria

Victoria, British Columbia just may be the crown jewel of romantic cities in North America. While San Francisco definitely captured our hearts when we visited a couple years ago, Victoria got our hearts and souls. This picturesque and sophisticated city found on Vancouver Island is one of our choice destinations for our recent travels. There is an abundance of things to do, and the city seems designed for active retirees with the plethora of activities and sites.

One of the very first things Julia and I did upon our arrival into Victoria via ferry from the mainland was to stroll Victoria Harbour. It was incredible to see a pristine waterfront and harbour that was punctuated with double decker buses, walkers, bicyclists and near every other type of recreationist enjoying the vibrant waterfront. The lush flower beds and gardens make a wonderful colored accent to the misty, grey skies ubiquitous to the region. When we strolled the harbour we opted to take a horse drawn carriage when our legs were ready for a break.

The Victoria Pier holds restaurants, art galleries, cafes and coffee houses, and often is lined with street performers. We enjoyed a lazy afternoon along the pier and had some of the most delicious salmon for lunch, with the salmon fresh from the docks. I tried the cedar planked salmon while Julia opted for a salt crusted baked salmon that was out of this world. Eating healthy in cities such as Victoria is fairly easy since there are numerous fish dishes on the menus of pretty much every restaurant.

A decade or so ago, Julia and I made big changes in our diets as we wanted to see our grandkids grow up. At one point, Julia even considered a career in nutrition but the timing simply wasn’t right. Since then, the educational requirements have gotten a bit more strict so we decided the extra debt we’d have to go into wouldn’t be worth it.

Victoria boasts a true melange of ethnicities, and it has a very large Scottish presence, with many Scottish settlers coming to settle in Victoria from Nova Scotia and the Canadian Maritimes so many eons ago. Craigdarroch Castle hosts daily tours that are fantastic. We were able to join a walking tour of the castle with no reservations required and enjoyed the historic castle and the interpretive talk given by our tour docent.

I wanted to get a good feel for Victoria’s maritime history and heritage, so Julia and I headed over to the Maritime Museum of British Columbia and enjoyed a day of touring schooners, sloops and former ships of commerce as well as being immersed in the rich maritime history of Victoria and Vancouver Island.

Since the weather was so beautiful, we wanted to get out on the water for a bit. We each rented a kayak along with a couple kayak life jackets. For the next three hours, we stayed on the water. I’m sure we got a good workout but didn’t really even notice since it was so relaxing. One thing I (Chris) realized is that even the best sunscreen won’t do any good if you forget to apply some to the top of your balding head. I almost posted a picture but then thought better.

After our tour of the Maritime Museum we decided to explore the rich First Nation’s heritage of the region and toured the totems and northwest art of the parks. We learned all bout the Tsimshian, Kwakiutal, and Haida that live in the region. The artworks are astonishing, with totems being just one aspect of it all. The capes, dances, orange carvings and stunning oral traditions told by First Nation’s people rounded out our trip of Victoria’s deeply diverse and wonderful cultures.

We truly fell in love with Victoria and look forward to our next trip where we can explore even more of this gem of a city.

Here’s a great video that describes Victoria better than words:

Edmonton: Love at First Sight

edmonton-home

This was written prior to making Edmonton our home. Our first visit was all it took for us to fall in love with the city.

When we rolled into Edmonton, Alberta my wife, Julia, instantly fell in love with the bright city lights. We discovered that Canada’s “Festival City” truly lives up to its name. We had heard there was something to do almost every day of the year and apparently there really is.

In our case, we had arrived smack in the middle of the Edmonton International Jazz Festival. It looked fun, so we decided to park the RV. It took awhile to find a place to park but knew I’d find something if I kept at it. I finally found a decent spot in the parking lot of a nearby mall. I waited as my wife grabbed her purse, then we climbed out of our RV.

We strolled past Edmonton City Hall and the beautiful fountains that lay before it  Julia and I stopped to admire them before we headed toward Churchill Square where a crowd had gathered to witness a band that was performing. I never caught the band’s name but they sure had a good sound. As we wandered through the area I spotted a large chess set. The pieces were taller than I was! My wife decided to take a picture of me standing next to the knight.

We stopped to eat at a nearby local establishment before venturing on to something new. Pico Bello Cafe was where my wife wanted to go. It was a nice Italian/Spanish restaurant that also offered some Mediterranean dishes. Julia absolutely loved the turkey cob salad sandwich.

I was in the mood for something else so I ordered the Italian Burger. Our waitress was excellent and highly attentive but we had to wait awhile since they seemed to be a bit understaffed that day. I was very impressed overall with not only the food, service, and atmosphere, but the prices weren’t as steep as I initially thought they would be given the portions of the food. We didn’t even have room left to sample dessert!

After we left Pico Bello Cafe, I wanted to scope out the Art Gallery of Alberta. While I never studied French, I did appreciate the exhibits. There were numerous contemporary drawings from the national gallery of Canada and artist Amy Melbeauf had some of her work there as well. I didn’t really get her whole concept of the physical to the immaterial but Julia did a good job explaining it all to me.

When we got back to our RV, we noticed one of the tires was a bit low on air. There was no nail or screw sticking out so that was a good sign. I was ready to call AAA but then I realized my son had let us borrow his portable air compressor for our trip. After a minute looking at the air compressor manual, I learned how to work the thing and got us back on the road. The tire pressure remained and the issue didn’t come up again. The $50 Central Pneumatic compressor saved us a whole lot of time. I’ll probably have to pick one up after returning my son’s.

We had a great time in Edmonton, Alberta. There was too much for us to see in one visit but Julia took plenty of pictures of what we had time to explore. I’d like to come back one day. Until then, we’ll be focusing on our next destination. My wife and I can’t wait to see more of this beautiful country.

Top 5 Things to do in Calgary

calgary-trip

As our trip through Calgary began, we realized it was time to park the RV and really explore Calgary the way it should be explored – on foot, on a bike, and the CTrain. We opted – obviously – for the CTrain, as being retired is about relaxing, and walking too much or trying to ride a bike through town just wasn’t our idea of fun. Anyways, we found some of the most amazing activities, places to eat, and things to do in Calgary, that we just have to share with you.

Prince’s Island Park

One of the first places we went was Prince’s Island Park, and no, not because it is free. We had to check out this gorgeous island, as soon as we heard about it. For this trip, however, we decided that a picnic would be the best meal for the day, so we stopped at a local market to pack our basket. There are beautiful sites to see here, and it is definitely a family place, something you would not expect to find in the middle of a large city like Calgary. As we were taking a stroll, we passed by the River Café and stopped to have a cup of coffee while watching the people around us.

Calgary Zoo

Our next destination was the Calgary Zoo, mostly because it was located near Prince’s Island Park and we adore animals, which this zoo has plenty of – more than 1,400 to be exact. We gazed for hours at the amazing beasts, including bears, moos, emus, and kangaroos. Of course, we stopped by the Prehistoric Park, and not because the younger generation considers us to be dinosaurs, but because it we enjoyed learning about the history behind the land that was once roamed on by dinosaurs.

Heritage Park

Many people are unaware of the Wild West past of Calgary, unless they have visited Heritage Park. We were amazed at what a vast area this was – covering more than 65 acres of ground, displaying the history that was once Calgary. We visited fur-trading posts, the ranch, and of course, the historic village. This is definitely a place we would return to on a subsequent visit to Calgary. The only issue was they were doing some type of construction nearby so you could hear the constant noise of air tools in the background. I guess we just came at a bad time. Overall though, Heritage Park gets good reviews from both of us.

Glenbow Museum

Not that we are major art connoisseurs or anything, but we though the Glenbow Museum would be worth our time, and the truth is, it was. There is a large collection of military memorabilia, European Art, West African artifacts, and Asian sculptures. It was like taking a time-travelling trip through different cultures across the world all in one location. We’re especially glad we didn’t drive here since there was a huge mess on the roads. All we noticed were some guys using a huge hydraulic jack to try to lift up the back of a large truck for some reason. Definitely not something you would find at Floor Jack Shop. Still not sure what happened there.

Let’s Talk Food

One of our favorite things to do is eat, and while the picnic was satisfying, that wasn’t the only place we dined while on our trip to Calgary. We decided to try some different places while on our trip. We started with Gaga Pizza, which was definitely worth it. Not only was the food amazing, but the people were great, too. We also stopped by the 7 Seas Seafood & Grill Restaurant, which was fresh and delicious. The last notable place to eat we stopped at was the Village Ice Cream parlor. The sweet and spicy chocolate was divine.

You know, it’s funny, many of the places we visited were old, or about old things – the museum, Heritage Park, and the Prehistoric Park inside Calgary Zoo. However, these are definitely places that are great for couples and families of all ages, not just us because we’re retired. Go! Enjoy! Explore! See what you can see!

New RV and a Primer on RV Water Heaters

Well we finally did it. We are now proud owners of a 2017 Fleetwood 30D. We want to thank everyone for their recommendations on a new RV. While we learn the ins and outs of this beauty, I wanted to share a primer my son put together on RV water heaters. He manages the excellent site Water Heater Hub (shameless plug).

RV Water Heaters Basics

A good RV hot water heater allows you to enjoy hot water wherever you are, whether it be camping or on a cross-country adventure. These water heaters operate more or less like residential water heaters with only a few differences. Knowing how they operate, how to maintain them, and how to troubleshoot them is key to years of trouble-free use.

RV water heaters are engineered smaller than residential models for obvious reasons. Models with 6-10 gallon tanks are by far the most popular. 16-gallon models are available but not very common due to their higher price and their requirement for more space. Like a residential unit, a water heater in an RV heats water up to the set maximum temperature and then mixes with cold water at faucet.

Tankless water heaters are becoming popular for RV. These are relatively expensive, but they offer the convenience of producing hot water in a few seconds on demand. Their operation is not different from that of tankless water heaters used at home.

Tankless water heaters for RVs have a reduced demand for fossil fuels besides offering an endless supply of hot water. With a conventional RV water heater, hot water is kept in the tank, meaning it is always cycling whether you are using the water or not. Tankless water heaters will only use propane when you need hot water. This means less refills and cost effectiveness.

Choosing Between Fuel Sources

You can choose between three fuel sources for your camper’s water heater. Electric and Liquid propane water heaters are engineered to operate on either Liquid propane or electricity. You can use the power source that gives you convenience or you can use both to heat water quickly.

Liquid Propane heaters burn Liquid Propane only. This is normally seen on entry level heaters. The third option is Motoraid. These are water heaters that use a complicated system. They are connected to the engine cooling system of your RV. As the engine runs, water from the cooling system is circulated through tubes connected to the heater’s tank. As the hot water circulates, it heats the water in the tank. Motoraid heaters are fuel efficient.

Understanding How RV Heaters Work

Electric Mode

Electric mode can be used on an electric hot water heater when you have about 120v shore electricity, or you have a generator. Irrespective, you will still need 12 amps electricity to keep the heater on which is a huge draw. When power is limited, you might need to switch to LP Gas Mode. Knowing the shore power wiring of your travel trailer and the outlet power will help you determine when to switch to LP Gas Mode or to switch off the heater temporarily.

Liquid Propane, LP Mode

You can switch to this mode when there is limited electric power. There are different LP water heater models with the main difference being in their ignition. Premium motorhomes have Direct Spark Ignition, which runs a sophisticated system.

Manual Pilot Light

This is a basic heater model. It uses a pilot light that you will need to light manually. When the pilot light is off, either by going off unnoticed or the pilot control has been switched off, gas does not flow. This is a safety measure that keeps you safe from gas leaks.

When the RV is on the road, the pilot light should be off. The wind usually blows the light off. This might be a minor inconvenience, but it will take about 20 minutes to have your water hot.

Direct Spark Ignition

The most common water heater in most RVs is the Direct Spark Ignition. This type of ignition has no pilot light. Instead, the gas mode thermostat will send a signal to the circuit board of the heater control to open the gas valve. Once this happens, a flame develops. The ignition system is fitted with a sensor, which detects the flame. When no flame is detected in 15 seconds, the gas valve closes. An indicator light will signal that the heater failed to start and the heater needs to be switched off.

DSI heaters can operate even when the motorhome is on the road, but I prefer to wait until I stop to save fuel.

Maintaining Your RV Hot Water Heater

RV water heaters require less maintenance during normal use. The electric mode of your water heater, especially, is maintenance free. You should never worry about hiring a technician to take care of your heater as the process is quite straight forward.

Replace the Anode Rod

The anode rod is the part that protects the steel tank from corroding. If the tank on your RV hot water heater is made of steel, it is recommended that you change the rod annually. Note that not all tanks use an anode rod, some are protected by glass.

Remove the rod using a socket wrench. Seeing that the rod might not have been touched for a year, it might present a challenge to remove. My advice, expect to get dirty, but the procedure is really simple.

Drain Your Tank

Whenever you motorhome is not in use, you should always drain your heaters. You can also use a water heater tank rinser, which sprays water into the back of your empty tank to remove sediment. This is key in enhancing the life of your tank.

Fill Water Lines with Anti-Freeze

Water heaters are large enough to expand and contract without any damage. However, water lines are pretty thin and will need anti-freeze to keep them in shape. A wide variety of water heaters are engineered with a bypass valve that locks anti-freeze out of the tank and in the water lines. For water heaters that do not have bypass valves, there are special kits that you can install to do this. Before filling your tank with anti-freeze, make sure that you empty the tank completely.

Clean the Burner Tube

You need to clean the burner tube at least once a year. If you use the RV often, you need to clean it more often. By cleaning the tube in LP Gas Mode, you keep debris off and lengthen the life of your water heater. You can do this using a vacuum cleaner nozzle or by spraying compressed air.

Troubleshooting Your RV Hot Water Heater

Check the Gas Supply Tube

When the gas supply tube gets plugged, your water heater might not operate. Any obstructions in your heater’s gas supply tube will limit the flow of gas to the pilot assembly. Common obstructions are small insects and spiders, which follow the smell of propane. If your RV has not been used for a long time, clean the tubes before hitting the road.

Check ByPass Valves

When your travel trailer’s heater won’t operate, check the pressure relieve valve to ascertain that the water is hot. If the water is hot and can flow to the faucet, check the positioning of the bypass valves to make sure it is correct.

If your heater does not have hot water after cycling on and off, check your hot water valve. If the valve is switched off, no water will flow through. If the hot water flow gets cold quick, there is a chance that the bypass hose is open and is facilitating the mixing of hot and cold water.

Are the Electric heating elements working?

In winter, you winterize the bypass by filling the tank with anti-freeze. But sometimes people forget to take the tank out of this condition. Before using the electric mode of your heater, ensure that the tank has water. This protects the heating element from burning out. If your heating element has burnt out, you can always replace it.

Replace Stale water

When the heater produces an unpleasant smell, it is likely that there is stale water in the faucet. Water will become stale whether it is hot or cold. When this happens, drain the tank and the water in the lines. After refilling your tank, the smell goes away.

What is the Lifespan of Water Heaters for RVs?

A good RV water heater will last for more than 10 years. But this will depend on how well you take care of your water heater. I recommend you do a thorough maintenance and troubleshooting just before you store your camper and before you start using it after a period of storage. You need to drain and flush the tank, change anode rods, and ensure the valves and water heating elements are in good shape to keep it running smoothly for years.

On to Winnipeg

winnipeg-trip

Since our retirement, Julia and I have been enjoying our travels around Canada. Our travels are something we had dreamed about for years. Now we are making the dream come true. Winnipeg was our recent destination stop; we loved every minute of the stay.

Arrowhead RV Park

Most RV parks close around the end of September which is why we like to go to Arrowhead which about ten minutes outside of Winnipeg. Arrowhead is one of the few places to remain open until the end of October which is great for those of us who like to travel later in the fall. Fall travel is beautiful especially with the changing leaves.

We could pull the RV through the site and give us a chance to relax while we figure out our next stop. While staying at the Arrowhead, we were able to catch up on laundry just remember to bring coins. The showers and restroom facilities were well-kept and clean. On the way, to the shower I was able to see the cutest little dog. Did I mention the Arrowhead is very pet friendly. Julia enjoyed her time catching up social media with the free Wi-Fi. I just enjoyed the time walking around the stony garden area and taking in the wonderful cool air. We had a fun time chatting with our neighbors who had grand kids about the same ages as ours. Instead of sleeping in their RV, the kids all camped outside in their sleeping bags. This reminded us about the previous Christmas where we bought our youngest granddaughter a sleeping sack from the Sleep Sack Store. She immediately wanted to sleep outside with it even though it was near freezing.

The Sites

Since Arrowhead is so close to Winnipeg, we could enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of the RV Park but still do some site seeing. We took in as many sites as possible while we were there. I know there were a few that we did not get to see but since we are retired there is a good chance we will be back. Being a history buff, the first sites were my personal favorites.

  • The Manitoba Museum which is in downtown Winnipeg. Maneuvering the RV around was a bit tricky but worth the trip. The museum has lots of history information with dioramas and even full scale replicas to walk through; I could just imagine how people lived in the past. Julia enjoyed the planetarium and the science gallery. The tour took us about four hours out of our day which was a great way to spend the afternoon.
  • The Forks National Historic Site has everything we could ever ask for while site seeing, we actually came back to this location a few times in order to get in all the sties we wanted to view. The Forks really does have something for everyone. Julia loved browsing around the little specialty shops which seem to go on forever. We took time and checked out the Canadian Museum of Human Rights and The Forks National Historic Site of Canada. We even spent time just browsing around the farmer’s market.
  • Winnipeg Art Gallery was a destination on Julia’s list. Visiting Canada’s oldest public art gallery really was relaxing.  The gallery had all types of art and even showcased some local talent.  Julia found some unique jewelry in the shop which she had to have.

Food

Okay, I admit it, finding new a place to eat is my favorite pastime. Even though, most days we would just grab a quick bite at a local vendor or eat in the RV, I still enjoyed searching out new eateries. One of the ones I liked the most was Stella’s Café & Bakery which is on Portage Avenue. The breakfast was amazing, the perfect way to start the day. We stopped at the Crusty Bun which is on St. Mary’s Road and at VJ’s Drive Inn on Main Street to get an awesome shake.

Well, until our next stop…

Where in the World is Halifax?

halifax-trip

My wife and I are continuing our retirement travels around Canada. After much consideration on where we wanted to go next, we decided to head to Halifax which is in the Nova Scotia province. As we headed toward our destination in our RV, the scenic drive was nothing short of spectacular.

Woodhaven RV Park of Halifax

Our first goal was to find a place to park the RV while still being close to Halifax. The closes campground is the Woodhaven RV Park of Halifax. The campground was perfect for our needs with hot showers, laundry facilities and a pool. While Julia was catching up on her social media with the free Wi-Fi, I was able to take in a game of horse shoes. The campground had a nice relaxing atmosphere which is perfect for us while we figure out where to head next.

The Sites

Julia and I enjoyed our downtime at the Woodhaven RV Park but we did our share of sightseeing as well. With so many choices, we had a hard time picking out which sites to see first. I was able to convince Julia to start with a historic site for our first stop.

  • Halifax Citadel National Historic Site of Canada on Sackville Street was our first destination stop. The Citadel is a perfect place to learn about Canada’s history. The Citadel has reenactments of the two most historic regiments of the time, the 78th Highlanders and the Royal Artillery. Of course, the bagpipes playing in the background also helps envision what the time period was really like to witness. We also stopped at the Coffee Bar and Regimental Shop which provided me with a wonderful hot cup of coffee and a snack. Julia spent time in the souvenir shop; she needed more postcards to mail to friends of our recent travels.
  • Halifax Public Gardens is located out on Spring Garden Road and South Park Street. The Halifax Public Gardens was on Julia’s list of must see places. Admittedly, the gardens are stunning. In 1867, the gardens opened and have been maintained to keep that original Victorian era feel with statues, urns, fountains and the iron entrance. Julia of course had to remind me of the honey-do list for our backyard which I never finished before we embarked on our adventure. I had to remind her that I didn’t exactly have the best tools for the job. I’m still a little bummed having to sell most of my tools including the new blue tool chest that was only in my garage for a couple months. But then I think about all the constant upkeep around the house and realize… it’s all good.  We also took a moment and stopped at the Uncommon Grounds Café. I love these little cafes.
  • Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is located on Lower Water Street. The Maritime Museum is just full of marine history. I absolutely love all the history.
  • Fairview Lawn Cemetery may seem like an odd destination stop. However, I wanted to see the cemetery since this is the final resting place for numerous victims of the Titanic.

Food

I know I have probably said this before but my favorite part of traveling is finding new places to eat. Many times we eat in the RV while enjoying the relaxing atmosphere of Woodhaven. But we still like to see what the local eateries have to offer. We had a delicious breakfast at Annie’s Place Café which is located on Queen Street. Julia loved the veggie omelet. I loved the French toast and the baked bread.

We also stopped out Morris Street to Piatto’s which is a pizza place. The pizza was great, the best that I have had in a long time. From my understanding, the tomatoes are actually imported in from Napoli, Italy. Of course, Julia liked the fact that the flour used has less gluten.

One of the greatest aspects of Halifax is being able to see the sunset which is absolutely stunning. Try Wagner’s Cove, a beautiful spot.

Our visit to Toronto

toronto-trip

Like most big cities when one arrives, the question will come up, “What are the things to do in Toronto, Ontario as a visitor?” Fortunately for this Canadian town, we found out there is plenty.

Toronto generally makes up the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. So if you’ve never seen 750,000 gallons of water dropping per second, it’s worth a sight and it’s only a 90-minute drive from town.

On the other hand, if leaving town is out of the question, then a walk to the CN Tower is in order. This Toronto-central feature is 533 meters high, and visitors can go inside to look out on the city at different levels. Altitude choices include terraces at the 350 meter and 450 meter levels above ground. It’s definitely breathtaking.

Hockey

Of course, one can’t go to Toronto and Canada without experiencing the national sport pasttime – hockey. The Toronto Maple Leafs are a hockey team with a tremendous amount of history, so catching a home game is well worth the trouble when in town. And if you then think ice-skating is easy, take a spin during the winter months at one of the 50 city ice rinks around town. The ice rink at Nathan Philips Square is a popular choice.

The above said, some folks would rather see history, and the Royal Ontario Museum is a great choice. The facility is home to thousands of artifacts and pieces of history as well as one of the largest shoe collections in one location, 13,000 different shoes. Imelda Marcos would have been jealous.

On a side note: Not many people probably know that I used to play a bit of hockey myself all the way through college before a lower back injury put a halt to that. I still struggle with sciatica pain while driving and comfortable sleeping positions for sciatica pain are few and far between. After a long day, I make it a habit of using my TENs unit for a few minutes or even put on my Quell if we plan on doing a lot of walking that day.

Food, Shopping, and Entertainment

All of the above locations and running around is going to make someone hungry, however, so grabbing a bite should be on the agenda. Toronto has its own Little India, Chinatown, Little Italy, and more, so there’s something for everyone. Yet whatever you eat, you need to make sure that you have room to eat some Poutine, Canada’s own version of french fries and sauce.

In the evening, Toronto has its own version of Broadway, being home to dozens of stage plays and touring shows every year. The two big facilities to take a look at as well as their billing include the Young Centre for the Performing Arts and the Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre.

And for the real tourists who don’t believe a trip is actual made without shopping, there is the Toronto Eaton Centre which is has enough stores in it to keep someone busy for a week. This covers everything from simple street stores to high-end design as well as everything in between. On the other hand, if antiques are more of the focus, then shopping at St. Lawrence Market will provide plenty of choices and inventory to look at.

Alternatively, the city has plenty of stand up comic humor, and comedians can be found at the Bad Dog Theatre Company as well as at Second City. Finally, the late evening can be spent in the Entertainment District going from night club to night club. 30,000 dancing people can’t be wrong, and most clubs are running DJ music until the wee hours of the morning.

Those visiting with children can sometimes find seeing a town challenging as there isn’t always a whole lot for kids. Toronto is an exception to the rule. The Toronto Zoo is an easy place to spend a day with children, providing access to Canada’s biggest zoo, and 5,000 different animals. And that includes a Panda family.

For more excitement, there is Canada’s Wonderland. The location serve’s as Toronto’s main amusement park with roller coasters, contests, skill games, rides, and a gigantic IMAX movie theatre on the water. Toronto is definitely a place we’d love to visit again in the future.

Montreal: North America’s Version of Europe

montreal-trip

When we entered Montreal, it was something else. First, it is completely on an island for the most part, so we saw some amazing views of the river. We felt like we were entering a completely different European country. We might as well have, because most the people spoke French here, but we were able to find English speakers rather easily.

Old Montreal

My wife wanted to eat at first, but I wanted to see some of the interesting landmarks. So we made a compromise, and we would go eat in Old Montreal. I figured that it would have some historic spots to check out.

The area has the look of 18th century Europe and was complete with the cobblestones.  The streets were alive with not only tourists but street performers doing all sorts of shows in an attempt to get some of that sweet tourist cash. Another street offered artists selling their paintings and other works.

We decided to eat at Chez Suzette which had amazing crepes at an affordable price. Afterwards, we took an amazing walking tour that showed us many of the old landmarks, such as the clock tower and the perfect view of the river.

Downtown

Since we were already in Old Montreal, the next place I suggested was Downtown. It was only a few minutes’ walk away from our current location. Downtown was a stark contrast than Old Montreal because of all the giant skyscrapers.

We stopped by the Mary Queen of the World Cathedral which is a cathedral that is 1/4th the scale of the one that is said to be in Italy. We also checked out Parc du Mont-Royal. It is a park next to Mount Royal, but it really happens to just be a small hill. My wife really enjoyed the beauty of the place, and it offered me a serene feeling as well. There were so many places to eat, so we vowed to come back later at night.

Mile – End

I had read about this area of Montreal in a book when I was younger so I insisted my wife we go check it out. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as spectacular as I thought. Nonetheless, I was still impressed at the ambiance. It seemed to be a trendy area, the word “hipster” comes to mind when visiting here. There were plenty of shops and boutiques which my wife loved, of course.

Mile-End offers the most amazing bagel shop in the world though. There is a shop called St-Viateur Bagel. When we approached, there was a huge line there and when we received our bagel, we were not disappointed. There was another bagel shop nearby that competed with this one. Apparently, these bagel shops are world famous, but I didn’t know that when I first walked up to them.

Montreal is a perfect vacation destination for those wanting to travel to Europe but don’t have the money for a transatlantic flight. There are plenty of old style architecture, roads and landmarks.

Beware that many people will speak French and even seem rude if you try to talk to them in English. However, I didn’t have any difficulty, and eventually I would just find someone else who did speak both to translate.