11.03.2013 - 18.03.2013 -8 °C
We said our goodbyes to Amanda at the bus station in Rochester and boarded the bus to Niagara Falls (Ontario) via Buffalo. Blake read on the internet that catching the bus in America is one of the dodgiest ways to travel. But it saved us $20 and we still have use of all major limbs!! Amanda said i would be the only asian and Blake would be the only white guy on the bus. She wasn't that far off. Before the bus left, the bus driver had to put out a warning to everyone on the bus.. no drinking (we assume he meant alcohol), and no dropping the f*** bomb allowed on the bus!! LOL.. It felt like being back in primary school.
The bus stopped on the US side of the border so after a quick walk we were back in Canada. The bus ride from Rochester to Niagara Falls was only 2 hours which was nice and easy.
After we checked in and dumped our bags we met up with my cousin Sylvia & her husband Steve. Steve wanted to go the the scariest haunted house in Niagara Falls and we thought that sounded like a great idea. This was the first adult haunted house either of us had been to and it actually had a safe word if you got too scared and needed to get out. We survived the haunted house and headed back to their hotel for some drinks and an amazing view of the Niagara Falls from their room. We followed up with a yummy dinner at Tony Roma's and a small flutter at the casino (warming up for Vegas).
Sylvia & Steve picked us up from our hotel at 10.30am and we were on the road to Ottawa. It took us a good 6 hours to drive there, with a short stop at burger king for lunch. Not many choices on the highways. After a yummy refreshing salad courtesy of chef Sylvia for dinner, Steve offered to take us out to the local curling rink to take a look and maybe try our hand at the game of champions. The rules are similar to lawn bowles except the jack is replaced with a home base, its played on ice and people have big brooms and slidy shoes. By the end Steve had shown us enough to get the rock into the home area but we decided that was as good as we were gonna get this trip. We may now be the most experienced players in Perth! Adding that to the resume... We polished off a couple of post curling drinks and called it a night.
Off to a good start in Ottawa! Today started with a big buffet breakfast at a maple farm, which basically means that we put maple syrup on everything (pancakes, sausages, eggs, bacon, you name it.. even in the baked beans!!). After that we had a walk around the farm and had a look at how maple syrup is made. Firstly, just to clear things up the maple syrup here is nothing like the artificial goop we get back in Australia, which is thick and sickly sweet. The real deal is far tastier (best you try it for yourself). After the maple tree is big enough it is tapped, ready to leek out some sap. The sap is only produced from late winter to early spring. Last year they had a maple syrup shortage as winter was extra long. I'm surprised Canada is still standing given their seeming reliance on this gooey delicacy. Anyway, after seeing the tapped trees we went down to the sugar shack to see the sap being boiled into syrup. We had some maple taffy, watched some horses attempt to shag and headed back for a rest. On the way back we stopped at the largest asian supermarket either of us have ever seen. It had everything asian you can think of, but we settled on a couple of young coconuts and some chilli mango. Also got some roast duck & chicken and longans for dinner and sweets.
Sylvia cooked up some Singaporean char kueh teow for dinner. So good.. and spicy too. Yummy!!
Today was the big day, our first time skiing (Blake's 20minutes of fame in Japan didn't really count). We woke up early and left the house by 10am to make our way to Camp Fortune which is about 15minutes outside of Ottawa in Quebec. We rented some skis and headed out into the snow with Steve, our friendly 'ski instructor'/'person stopping us going head on into the trees'. We spent the first hour or so with the kids in the pee wee park riding up the conveyor belt and down the most gentle slope you can imagine. Pretty exciting for us novices but hey, gotta start somewhere. It was a little embarrassing when 4 and 5year old kids ski past in full control but we got over it . After that we sucked it up and decided to go down a proper slope. It just so happened to be a bit too advanced for us so we spend half of the time on our asses and the other half being 'caught' by Steve when we failed to stop. We made it down none the less, went inside for a drink and a snack and decided to try a slightly less steep hill. We made it down this one without falling over too much so we decided to call it a day and end on a positive note. The three of us stopped by at a pub on the way back for some soup, a beer and our first poutine (a delicacy of Quebec) which basically is french fries topped with brown gravy and curd cheese. The perfect way to top off a good ski.
We got back and all laid down for a bit of a rest. Sylvia got back from work and made us all a lovely dinner before we headed out for another Canadian pastime, five-pin bowling. Five-pin is quite similar to ten-pin except that there are only five pins (duhh) and the ball is about half the size and made of hard rubber. It makes the fancy shots a lot more exciting and you can rocket that small ball down the lane at close to the speed of light! Its a pretty cool game and Michelle and I didn't do too bad at all and had heaps of fun. After that and a couple of beers it was lights out as soon as we got home. What a big day!
We all had a pretty nice sleep in today. Woke up late, had a quick breakfast and headed in to see the sights of the capital. Fist stop was saying hi to Sylvia at work and trying not to rub in the fact that she was working and we were slacking... After that we went to get our first shawarma. Its pretty similar to a regular doner kebab but its served in a wrap and the chilli garlic sauce was to die for! After satisfying our hunger we went for a walk and had a look inside and around parliament house. We started to queue to head up to the peace tower for a good look around the city but gave up as we had quite a few things to see and not much time left. We strolled around the back of parliament house and had a look over the river on the way to get our Beavertail. We watched a survivor show on TV a couple of days ago and the survivor guy found a beaver frozen solid in the snow and decided to eat it (supposedly he has a roadkill licence so thats all perfectly ok?). The guy hacked it off frozen, cooked it and ate it. He said it tasted rank. Now that was NOT the beaver tail that we tried. We tried the beaver tail that is a long fried pastry kind of thing. The regular style was lemon and sugar but I (Blake) got a bit carried away and got a chocolate and peanut butter, which sort of looked like a little kids snack. Tasted good either way. Sylvia finished work so we all went back to their place for our last night in Ottawa. Sylvia and Steve did put us to work shovelling snow from their driveway when we got home. They told us they were joking pretty much straight away but we all had to pretty much hold down Michelle to get the snow shovel out of her hands!! She had a ball shovelling snow and I have to admit, it was kinda fun (doing it once). Sylvia and Steve decided to take us for some authentic Thai food before we left. We really miss the great asian foods that we get back home in Perth so this was a welcome treat (most asian foods we've tried in Europe and North America have been average...).
The last day we woke up and went for a yummy filled scone at a great place in town (the name eludes both of us...). After that we all said our goodbyes and got on the train to Montreal. The train trip to Montreal was only 2hours so we were there in no time. Michelle and I were quite tired after all that excitement in Ottawa so we pretty much just relaxed around the hotel room for the rest of the evening.
Day 2: St Patrick's Day in Montreal
Big exciting day today! It was really cold and we were planning on standing outside to watch the parade most of the day so we really rugged up. Fortunately we found a great place for a nice hot breakfast (with fruit :P) on the way to the parade. We got to try a version of Montreal's famous smoked meat which was quite nice. After breakfast we once again braved the cold and made our way to the St Patricks day parade. It looked like half the town was out and half of the people in the parade were men 50+ years old. Good to see the celebratory spirit is surviving! We saw all sorts in the parade but after an hour decided to get into a good pint of Guinness. Fortunately we found an Irish pub only 2blocks away (without a queue) where the people inside seemed to be wilder than the people in the parade! We had a drink and headed back out to see the rest of the parade. When we got out there were at least 20people in line out the front of the pub... Looks like we wont be getting back in there anytime soon! In light of that we made our way home picking up a six pack of the local Montreal stout St Ambroise. We also managed to find ourselves a Tom Tom on sale so decided to get that for the rest of the trip. There's nothing worse than arguing over directions! I'm sure we can find far better things to argue about...
After a lovely sleep in we had breakfast/lunch at Ma-am-M Bolduc in the plateau mont royal area. According to google, they have some pretty good poutine- good enough for a sober date apparently . Blake wanted a serve of poutine all to himself and he sure did get one- A huge one too considering that was only the small serve!! I (Michelle) had a yummy duck burger. So good . With all this energy we decided to walk up and around some of Mount Royal (the 'mountain'/small hill that Montreal is named after). We cut across the snow covered park and made our way up a few icy paths. I guess the locals must just get used to it as there was people jogging on iced over path that we had trouble walking on. Anyway, we made it part way up and bailed because the ice was getting a bit dicey. We made it down with no bones broken but a couple of nice skating moments... Michelle stacked it well on the her way down.
Time to return to USA..