Quebec City – Winter Wonderland

It has been a very long time since I last posted anything, but I have made a new years resolution to post at least one post each week to catchup with where I have been over the last year and a half; beginning with the most recent and working backward.

Over the Christmas holidays I returned to my parents home in Montreal and had the pleasure of spending a night away in Quebec City after a 50cm snow fall. I last visited Quebec City when there was no snow on the ground and hard to pin point how many years ago – more then 5 is my best guess. I have never been to Quebec City in the winter time and it simply took my breath away.

We began our first day with a quick bight to eat after a slightly nervous descent on the Escalier Frontenac (Frontenac Stairs) and then down a slippery side walk along Cote de la Montagne. The view from the top of the Escalier Casse-Cou is a stunning at ay time of year. We stopped at a pub that has an age restriction of 18+ which is wonderful when you’re a group of adults wanting to escape children. We tried several different sandwiches and provincial beers, but we could all agree that the French Onion soup was the best part.

After lunch we roamed the narrow streets, made even smaller by the snow and blocked off sections of men up on ladders clearing large snow heads hovering dangerously off of the roofs lining the small streets.

After wandering around for a while, we came to a square with kids sledding down a huge snow bank to the left of a simply decorated and snow covered Christmas tree. Just behind it is the Musee de la place Royale. To the left of the museum is a small cafe called La Maison Smith where they serve out front Maple syrup on a stick. These little stands are in a few spots around the old town.

As a child I can remember heading into the forest to an old log hall where everything was covered in Maple syrup for an event called “Sugaring Off”. It happens in the spring, usually around Easter time. We stopped for a little sample of Maple syrup poured onto ice and then rolled onto a stick. It can be a very mess affair when you eat it – you’ve been warned!

Afterwards some sweet delicious-ness on a stick we wandered around looking at the art not only in shop windows, but also beautifully painted on several buildings in the old town. We also stopped into a little restaurant called Queues De Castor, for another shot of sugar to the blood stream in the form of a beaver tail. I have one of these treats once every few years.

After our second dose of sugar we took a ride up the Funiculaire du Vieux Québec to the beautiful and majestic Fairmont Le Château Frontenac. This hotel is a place of excellence, beauty, and is iconic of Quebec City. A few years ago, when I was last there, they were fixing the Terrace Dufferin along the front of the hotel and discovered old ruins from the fort buried beneath (des Forts-et-Châteaux-Saint-Louis). At the far end in winter there is an ice toboggan run and beside that an ice rink.

This was a lovely end to our trip in Quebec City.

.

Advertisements

Exploring Frankfurt Pt. 3

On Saturday, the coolest day this week, we decided to take a 100min boat cruise along the Main. As we walked down Berger Str. we stopped to look at the weekend market (every Wednesday and Saturday – but Saturday has more vendors). The market is called the Bornheimer Wochenmarkt.

After looking around to see what they had we headed down to the river via a different route. Coming out at the Frankfurt Cathedral (on DomstraBe) we went inside to take a look. It was very different to the churches I visited in Mexico. All the churches I remember seeing while living in Mexico were usually very decorated and ornate. This church, in the gothic theme, was simple and understated; although the organ was AMAZING!

We went with the tour company Primus Linie Frankfurter Personenschiffahrt. Below are some pictures from the boat trip up and down the Main. 

After the boat cruise we walked into the Financial District and then up through the city along a park walk. Something i love about Frankfurt is the amount of parks there are. It was wonderful to walk through the city but be surrounded by nature. We came out by the Opernplatz and continued walked to the Eschenheimer Turm. We then headed up Oder Weg toward my school. After finding my school we walked to the nearby park and then back towards home. We stopped for an early dinner of schnitzel along the way. 

It has been a busy first week, exploring all there is. Yesterday it rained for most of the day so I am sure the city is looking a lot greener then it has the last few days.

Keep checking back for updates. A lot is happening in the next few weeks 🙂

Exploring Frankfurt Pt. 2

After my dad arrived on Friday, we headed back downtown for another day of exploring. This time we headed down to the water.

On our way we walked along Berger Str. again. All of the restaurants and the mouth watering smells in the air, coupled with local stores, compels me to walk down this street each time I head into town. We stopped at a bakery for some pastries and coffee.

After our little stop, we continued down Berger Str. and I discovered a “Mexican” restaurant (that had burritos as it’s main choice) and a collective book shelf (leave a book and pick a book – there are a few around the city!)

Almost at the end of Berger Str. there is a garden on the right (if you’re heading into town) called Bethmannpark. Inside this park there is a Chinese garden, an area to play chess (both large and small on a table), a lawn to relax on and beautiful flowers.

After exploring the park we walked into town. For the last few days my mom and I had been down, there were not a lot of people; however, it seemed as though the entire world was out on Zeil that day! So we took my dad to show him the gym I joined and then we headed down towards the water (turning left after Esprit onto Liebfrauenstraße). As we walked down we saw some beautiful older buildings and then we were in Paulsplatz and beyond that Römerberg.

After our walk through Römerberg, we walked down to the river Main and over the Eiserner Steg (foot bridge) to a lovely barge on the other side for a refreshing apple juice and mineral water (my new favourite combination). We then walked back home, but stopped to treat ourselves to ice-cream.

A New Adventure

On August 10th I set out with my mom for Frankfurt, Germany. Almost a week later, my parents have left, the house is quiet and I can now let you all in on what I have been up to this last week.

My mom and I arrived on Tuesday, tired after only sleeping a few short hours on the plane. After arriving and being shown around and told all about my new apartment by the agent, my mom and I sat in a heap to just gather ourselves. After changing (SUPER hot in Frankfurt this last week!), we set off to check what was just around the my apartment. We found a cute little cafe called Mokkateeria and had a refreshing mint, apple juice, and lime cordial drink with a sandwich. After feeling a little more energized we walked back to my apartment, but stopped at the REWE (pronounced ree-va) for some groceries.

That night we had a yummy salad with chicken on my balcony. The weather was so hot, it was terrible to sit inside.

The following day we took a walk into town. It is about a 30min walk from my apartment to the main shopping platz on Zeil. We walked around, looking into Rossman (similar to Pharmaprix/Shoppers Drug Mart in Canada), H&M (because they had air-conditioning), and O2 (a cell phone/internet company). I was also in search of finding a gym, so I stopped at McFit (after walking up 5 flights of stairs, being told the gym has no air-conditioning, and is often very busy I decided not to join). In MyZeil (the big shopping mall on Zeil) there are a lot of stores; however, I found it quiet American in the type of stores and feel. We stopped for a coffee at a Spanish restaurant on level 4 that faces another gym called Fitness First (this is the gym I eventually joined – they have a pool!). We visited this gym and were shown around. They have a pool, a very nice locker room with showers and relaxation areas, offer 2x annual check-ups with a trainer who gives you a plan, and much more! I was sold, but had to check my finances because there was a sign up fee and a 1x a year fee for the check-up and plan with the trainer (plus the monthly fee). While in the mall we asked at O2 about phone plans. If you have a bank account it is much cheaper and easier to sign up for plans and pay as you go. For example, I could pay 30Euro for a pay as you go with a bank account, or almost 70Euro if I pay cash… GASP! So different from Mexico and even Canada (I used Koodo this past summer was great).

On Thursday, the hottest day by far, mom and I headed to Ikea in hopes they would have air-conditioning and to furnish my room 🙂 I have rented a fully furnished apartment; however, I found upon arrival and inspection there was not enough storage space for all my things! So I bought new sheets, pillows, a shoe cupboard, dresser, and some other things for the kitchen and bathroom. We walked around and then sat and had lunch. After lunch we headed downstairs to fill my cart with all sorts of things. Then we went back to the cafeteria to have a coffee (can you tell we didn’t want to face the heat!), and finally went to get the bigger items and pay. I tried to order an Uber, but without a phone number I watched the little Uber car drive around and around, never getting to us at the front door! So after a while my mom went inside to ask at the kids play area if she could use a phone to call a taxi. Just an FYI, ask for a van if you have lots of things (thankfully my mom was smart enough to do so). When we got home, we unpacked all our things and began putting stuff together/organizing.

In the next post I will tell you all about exploring Frankfurt when my dad arrived, the boat cruise, finding parks and my school, and eating a German favourite!

Stay tuned!

A Weekend Exploring the Sierra Gorda

There were a few places I had to check off my list before leaving Mexico and one of them that was accessible and inexpensive was the Sierra Gorda. Part of the Sierra Gorda is in the state of Queretaro, and although it takes some time to drive through it and visit places, it is well worth the drive. If you are have motion sickness I highly suggest taking medication as it is mostly high steep mountains and deep canyons!

There are two major conservation areas in the Sierra Gorda, one in Queretaro and one in Guanajuato. It was interesting to see the different landscapes, from dry dessert at the beginning of the trip, to foggy in the middle, and wet, rainy, and humid near Xilitla (because it was only a weekend, that is as far as I could get in such a short time).

Below are several pictures of the weekend 🙂

Puerto Escondido

After Christmas there seems to be a lot more holidays and long weekends. After Semana Santa you have only a short few weeks and then another long weekend. Myself and a friend decided we wanted to go to the beach, somewhere inexpensive and relaxing. We didn’t want to go back to Puerta Vallarta, so we went to the VivaAerobus website and looked up several beach destinations. We chose Puerto Escondido. Cheap flight and we found a great hostel (no air) 1 street away from the beach.

We had a wonderful time, ate AMAZING food, and met some wonderful people.

One of the main reasons we chose this destination was because it has not been hit yet with the all-inclusives that are happening further up in Cancun area. Puerto Escondido is still a hipster, surfer town that attracts surfers all year round.

We stayed in a friendly, inviting hostel called Osa Mariposa, which is located a 2 minute walk from a big beach.

When you arrive at the airport do not do what most people do and take a taxi at the entrance. Walk out the door and down to your right to the main street. There you can take a cheaper taxi. We paid about 210pesos from the airport to our hostel (doesn’t seem like much if you have dollars), but on the street you can pay between 60-100pesos (this might go up depending on how close, but email Osa Mariposa and ask advice on this subject).

Our first day we just walked around exploring the beach right down the street from Osa Mariposa. When you walk down to the beach if you turn right on the beach you walk towards the center of town. It is only a 15min walk. If you go left you walk towards an area a lot of surfers hangout in the corner (La Punta). Over those cliffs is where someone releases turtles. Be sure to ask at Osa Mariposa (if you stay there) or someone else where you can see this happening. We were unable to do so, but it would have been wonderful!

Over the next few days we explored several beaches, and although the tides were higher then usual (more then 50 years haha!) we were able to sit on the beach, eat at the restaurants and enjoy the weather. Our favorite restaurant was Maui. The BEST fish and shrimp tacos I have ever eaten in my life. We ate there twice in 5 days! To get there from Osa Mariposa you have two options. You can either walk along the beach or along the main road.

Beach: head down to the beach and walk to your left (towards La Punta). When you get to the Cabañas Buena Onda (on Heroes Oaxaqueños street) go up the street. At the first cross road take a left (there is a convenience store on the right). Don’t even try Google maps walking because the last time they did it was 2013 and it HAS CHANGED a lot! Go down that street and Maui is on your left.

Street: when you walk out of Osa Mariposa walk left. When you’re looking at Hostel One Love (nice place too, would love to chill in the hammocks on their roof!) go left again. When you hit the top of that hill and can only turn left or right, turn right. Just keep walking and Maui will be on your right.

There are lots of other little restaurants in and around La Punta, but that was our favorite!

Some of the beaches we visited were just amazing. Not very many people and at every one of them were restaurants we could buy food and drinks and VERY reasonable prices from. Below are some of the spots we relaxed at.

Instead of sitting at one of the other many beaches in Puerto Escondido, we decided to head to Mazunte, a 1hr drive in a collectivo (from the highway near Mariposa). To catch this collectivo you head left up the hill from One Love Hostel and turn left (instead of right to Maui). There is a convenience store on your right. The collectivo stops right outside. You can either get the big bus (no comfortable) or the white mini bus (super comfy!) for the same price. Just make sure to say where you are going. YOu will be dropped off at an Oxxo. You then take a cab down into Mazunte. You can also wait for a collectivo (if you have time I recommend this option – much cheaper!) Unfortunately there was a HUGE swell the night before and we were unable to spend the day on the beach, but we walked around the quiet town and had delicious breakfast 🙂 We even bought some little things for ourselves and gifts.

That same afternoon we decided to hangout at the pool at the hotel just up the street from Osa Mariposa (the main one you go down toward One Love). We paid about 25pesos each and were able to sit and enjoy the pool for the afternoon. We didn’t see it as first, but we even had a friend join us!

 It was such a relaxing, albeit hot, weekend. I can’t wait to go and explore this area more. If I was a surfer this would be paradise. The main beach, Playa Zicatela, the surf break is known as the Mexican Pipeline. People from all over the world come here to surf (lots of Americans and Australians).If the swell hadn’t of happened we would have gone out to see the dolphins and turtles and fished (we could have swum with them too!) for an inexpensive price. If you stay at Osa Mariposa ask about it 🙂 There is a lot to do even if you’re not a surfer, and because it isn’t a popular tourist destination (yet) things are a lot cheaper. Click here to read about more you can do as a non-surfer in Puerto Escondido.

Semana Santa – Week 2

For the second week of Semana Santa, I was lucky enough to go stay with my aunt and uncle and a few of their friends in Puerta Vallarta. We visited many fun beaches, I checked off an item on my bucket list (The Hidden Beach), saw many dolphins and whales, and ate delicious food!

Semana Santa

In Mexico, the time you have off during Easter break is called Semana Santa. We had two weeks off and I took full advantage!

My aunt and uncle from South Africa visited me for a few days before heading off to Puerta Vallarta. During there short stay my mom came for a few over-lapping days and we were all able to spend some time together. We visited close by towns and were able to explore some of Queretaro together. For the first week I stayed in Queretaro with my mom, aunt and uncle. Below are some pictures of our adventures 🙂

Dinner in Tequisquiapan

On Friday afternoon, a guy I have been seeing suggested we head to Tequisquiapan for dinner and a walk around the small downtown. At first I thought he was kidding because its about 45min drive (depending how you drive) toward Mexico City from Queretaro. He wasn’t kidding and I happily agreed.

The lovely mountains

We stopped at Oxxo and got some water and chips and off we went on a beautiful evening drive. Something I love about living here are the mountain backdrops wherever you go.

🙂

After about 40min we reached the city and it is not like Queretaro or San Miguel. It is surrounded by many farms and lakes – much of what the local people do revolves around selling meat and corn. Meat is the major business in this area, along with cheese and wine routes not far from the centro. When you are in the centro you can see a big map of the surrounding area that shows you the many, many wine and cheese areas all within 10-15min.

As we arrived in the city I noticed it was considerably smaller than Queretaro or San Miguel, but it still has that same architecture and feel like the others. The church as the same colours and style and it was beautiful to walk around in the early evening with no tourists or lots of people milling about. I would love to go back in the day to explore the artisan markets there, but it was nice to just walk around and stop in a few shops to take a look around.

Little courtyard

Little courtyard

We walked around the centro for a bit and then we found a cute coffee shop that even sold matcha tea! Unfortunately, they were out of it, but I learned something very important. If you want an americano (espresso with hot water) you need to say americano europea. I have been saying americano for the longest time here and I just kept getting a regular coffee. FYI if you ever find yourself in Mexico. We also tried an infused tea, just fruit and hot water. It tasted like a fruity drink I had at David’s Tea this summer, it made me miss home a bit – but now I know what to get when I visit at Christmas!

Infused Tea

Infused Tea

After our tea and long conversations (and many mosquito bites later), we headed back to the car and drove a short distance to a very yummy restaurant that my friend went to several times when he was a kid with his family. I let him order because clearly he knows what is good. They brought us many side dishes to add to our tacos (avocado, salsa verde, 1 mild salsa and 1 hot, onions and cilantro, pineapple, and cucumber). I ordered a jicama water and I’m still not sure what he got but it had rice in it.

After dinner we headed back to Queretaro at which point we were both happily full and ready to sleep. Nothing better than sleeping on a full stomach of deliciousness!!

Until next time!

Mercado La Cruz

Sorry I haven’t written for a while. With starting school, being sick and exploring I barely have time! I figure my first blog back should be about groceries and why I love going to the market.

Mercado La Cruz is located in the centro (downtown) and is open 7 days a week. Times vary, but generally it’s open earlier in the morning (+ or –  8am) and closes around 5/6pm. On Sunday the parking lot becomes an extension of the market that includes “DVDs” and “name brand clothing, perfume, shoes, etc.”. Sunday is my favourite day to go, there are more people but it just makes it more exciting 🙂 It is somewhat of a maze so when I am talking about it I am talking as though I am standing in the parking lot facing it.

I begin the morning with some tacos for breakfast. This is a good time to clarify times to eat here. Breakfast is around 11, 2:30 is lunch and much later is dinner (between 7pm-9pm). So around 11am I go to a taco place that has amazing tacos!

After I have had my fill I take a walk through the market in the parking lot. I have bought a nice cross body bag and boots so far. Today my mission is to find either a hat or some accessories.

After my meanderings I visit the lovely, generous ladies at one of the fruit stands. The one I like is on the right about the 2nd row from the right side of the building quiet far in. It is a massive stand and you cannot miss the fruit and vegetables piled high and the ladies at the top shouting out peoples orders as their coworkers (varying from about 10 years old to 40+) scurry around the bottom gathering your order. Often if you ask what something is they will cut it open and let you try it, most times they do this regardless because they want you to buy more 🙂 Let me tell you, this is a good sales trick because I often leave with more than I wanted haha!

Next it is on to the meat stand. Right after the fruit stand you take a left and head for the meat place on the corner. It is all very fresh so a tip is either cook it all that day or freeze what you need later in the week. It will go bad in a few days.

Typically I end my shopping adventure here weighed down by amazing fresh and cheap food. I would suggest getting an “old lady” shopping cart so you don’t have to carry around all that deliciousness on your back. The best part of all this is I usually get meat for the week (enough for two people so I have dinner and lunch) and a lot of fruit and veg and it usually costs between $500-$600pesos (less than C$60)!

Oh and don’t forget to try Gericaya, you will find it on the far right side of the market near the closed restaurant stands (that will be another posts!).

Hope that satisfies all of your tastebuds for the moment. I am going to get ready and head down there now – have a lovely day!