Thursday, 23 September 2010

My favorite places: Canada



One place you have to go and see is definitely Canada! I happened to have a good friend there who was my guide for most of my trip. I travelled around the states of Ontario and Quebec.

My first 2 days I was on my own in the modern city of Toronto! I was fascinated by the skyscrapers in the downtown where I stayed at, the beautiful harbour , the Ontario lake and the islands and I have to say that although there were some homeless in the street, i felt pretty safe. There was one square that reminded me of the Picadilly Circus in London and even the tour double-deck buses were red! Toronto has very good means of transportation> tram,bus and subway. Although the private coach company (airport express) from the international Pearson airport was a bit expensive, i'd advise you to buy a return ticket for 36 dollars which is valid for 90 days and takes you to downtown in only 25 minutes.

I wish i had had more time to spend in Toronto to be able to go on a cruise to the islands or to the Museum of Contemporary art and to do some shopping in the Eaton centre! Toronto is a expensive city and all around Canada taxes are not included in the prices you pay for clothing,food or bills in bars or restaurants, so always take that into account.

I spent half a day in the Niagara Falls, next time I'll stay overnight there since there is so much to do with the Niagara city entertainment shows and funny museums! It's worth it to stay! you can go by bus form Toronto like I did on a budget company that goes there daily for only 15 $ one way. Once you get ot the Niagara City coach station, it's a 40 minute walk to the falls or you can take a transit bus or taxi. I felt adventurous and walked all the way but I would advice you to take the transit bus not to lose any time! You can also go to the Niagara falls from Toronto on a tour bus but they charge you minimun 50 $ and you dont have a lot of free time to hang out.

After coming back from the falls, on my third day from Toronto I travelled by rail canada train (I bought the tickets on their web page), the ticket was a bit expensive but it was a nice way to see Canada for longer than 4 hours until I got to Ottawa.

Ottawa is a cozy traditional city with an impressive parliament which reminds me of the Big Ben and lovely castle just above the river.

By car we got to the beautiful mountain landscaping full of wild woods and lakes in the bilingual area of Tremblant in Quebec. It has it all, you can have a swim in the lakes in the summer and in winter yo can go skying in the multiple skiing resorts with lovely cafeterias and restaurants. Hidden in the mountains you have an amazing shop of Tommy Hillfiger where discounts up to 50 % can be found all year long! These discounts are only offered in this place because Tommy has a house in the area.

Last but not least, I spent my last day in the European-American style city of Montreal. I would have need at least other 2 days to be able to enjoy the city more, i only could appreciate the charm of the old city of Montreal, the harbour with its great atmosphere and inviting cafeterias. It was amazing to see the mixture of skyscrapers and Georgian style buildings. Montreal even has a replica of the French Cathedral of Notredame, they are very similar indeed!

Dont leave the state of Quebec without having maple sirope and poutine! 2 of the specialities of the area!Canada is a very ethnically and culturally mixed country and specially in the state of Quebec inhabitants speak more French than English and street signs are in both languages.

Ah! i almost forgot the cheapest airline that goes to Canada is airtransat, it's actually good value and they fly to the main cities!

I have to thank my friend Cristina and their family for the wonderful tour around Canada! i hope to be back soon!

Monday, 13 September 2010

Around Ireland: Inis Mór island (Aran Islands)




Our search of the deep true Irish culture continued and we are just back from a magical place called: Inishmore (in Irish: Inis Mór). As we have been living in Ireland for more than 5 years now, we know that in order to travel around Ireland you have to be very well prepared to confront the changeable weather: waterproof trousers and jacket,rain boots, a couple of torches and a couple of fleeces.

To get to the island you can go either by ferry for 40 minutes or like we did, by a small aircraft for 8-people on a 10-minute flight only. The aircraft flies very low and it´s very nice to see the islands from the sky, I truly recommend it (you pay 45 euros for a return ticket) you can check: http://www.aerarannislands.ie/index.php?page=group-rates. A shuttle bus will take you to the Connemara airport from Galway in only 30 minutes. Inismore is the biggest of the 3 beautiful Aran island on the Atlantic ocean. According to what the locals told us it has around 900 inhabitants and everybody knows each other, the most popular hobby is : gossip which spreads quickly! There is no crime at all there so no police is needed, there are no petrol stations, nor big shops or other common places we take for granted in this globalized world. There is only one small bank, 3 schools and when you get sick they come to pick you up by helicopter. The means of transports around the island is mainly by: pony carriages, bikes and for the oldest tourists there are around 3 small vans that take them in a tour around the island for 2 hours (10 euros each). No map will help you on this island since there are no street names and only a few signs and all in gaelic! People from the island are extremely nice and helpful and their main language is Irish, which unfortunately it´s only spoken in a few places in Ireland. There are no big luxurious hotels to stay on the island, only bed and breakfasts from the locals. Without knowing it, i booked a room for 2 in the most beautiful spot of the island, "The Man of Aran cottage" whose owner Joe and wife Maury treat you like one member of their family, we had long conversations with them while having a homemade Irish breakfast in the morning with the products from their own garden. They have been for 18 years in the business and take care of every detail. We were lucky we got the cottage number 5 just in front of the ocean, you pay 45 euros per person but it´s well worth it (they can make you a discount if you are a group)!The reservation is done by email and then you pay at the end of your stay. You can find them here: http://www.manofarancottage.com/about.html.
We rented our bike in town and cycled all the way to the cottage with our rucksacks, i have to say that if somebody would have told me that it was going to take me an hour to get there, i may have chosen another means of transport but it was an experience for me, to be honest! Just 5 mins before arriving we saw one tourist lying on the road because she was hit by a car, being her an American tourist going in the wrong direction with the bike,she was taken quickly to the mainland. There are only a few cars on the island but on the Aran islands , it´s like in the U.k. and cars go on the left and some tourists are unaware and a beautiful trip can end up badly.
I could be writing for hours about Inis Mór but I’m going to sum it up now:
@ Beautiful colours of landscapes and sky free of pollution where you can see the stars at night!
@Perfect place to get away from hectic life
@go to the local pub, Joe ,to listen to live music and have a wonderful meal, i recommend the cheese cake with Baileys
@have a coffee on the Man of Aran small shop in town
@choose a bed and breakfast a bit far away from town
@Don´t miss the fort of Dún Aonghasa and its beautiful cliffs, our cottage was only 10 minutes away from this site
@if you want to rent a bike do it directly in the main shop in town, 10 euros per day
@if you need to leave your bags , you can leave them at the tourist office
@don´t miss the smallest church in Europe and the beautiful cemetery with celtic crosses just in front of the ocean (both of them very close to the airport)
@choose carefully the time of the year when you want to go there, for us September has been very nice, they told us that many bed and breakfasts close from October to January (the lowest temperature being 7 degrees and the hottest 20 degrees,so leave the bikini at home!)

Locals like the American pub , we went there and we actually didnt´like the food, the Joe´s pub was much nicer, don’t waste tour time there.

@leave your umbrella at home and bring better what I recommended at the top of this post , all the American tourists in shorts got a bit wet.

To me it has been one of the most beautiful wedding anniversaries i have had with my beloved husband, he was so happy cycling and talking to the locals that only to see this it was well worth it!We have definitely a different view of Ireland, the more we get to know it , the more we like it!

Places to See