Who are we

We are a family of 3 who took a break from our routine. Usually we live in Scotland but February to the end of July 2011 we were on the road in North America for 6 months. We are Mark (also known as Dad), Rachel (also known as Mum... and a whole bunch of other names... my usual at-home blog is here) and Heather (10/11 years of age during the trip).

Monday, 28 February 2011

Living it up in Québec City

We made it to Québec City on Wednesday of last week and stayed there for a few days. There were many great things about this mini-break:

- as it was completely out of season (winter festival finished, summer season a long way off…) we got a really good last-minute deal on a beautiful hotel right in the old town. The rooms weren't as luxurious as the foyer (well, ours weren't) but it was such a lovely place to be and the location meant we could forget the car for a couple of days and use some more old-fashioned modes of transport (feet, a somewhat over-priced horse'n'carriage/calèche combo...). We took the funicular up and down the steep hill too (once each way). Great views.

- the city is just precious to look at - real chocolate-box stuff, especially with all the ice and snow and fairy lights at night. The look and city walls reminded me of York in England... if York up on a hill. We did quite a lot of wandering about in the dark (as you'll see from the photos) and yes, it was cold... but warmer than Ottawa!

- it is soooooo French. And in this city I could even understand the accent and be understood back (harder for a European around Montréal, n'est-ce pas?). Being so French the food was all formidable, the young women were (almost) all disgustingly pretty and thin and effortlessly chic and the men just looked... well, so French.

- there is a ferry over the magnificent icy St Lawrence river to Lévis (about a ten minute trip) and that is how we left Québec City at the end of the few days. What great views! What impressive ice! How damned cold up on the outside deck! Truly a beautiful part of the world.

We're back in Ontario with family now for a week or so. Here are some Québec City photos though - mostly Mark's.


Quebec City

Thursday, 24 February 2011

National Art

As promised here is a wee slideshow of pics in and around the The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. You're not allowed to take pictures of the paintings and work inside but we did get more than a few photos of the fab/monstrous Louise Bourgeois piece "Maman" that stands just outside the front entrance (photos of that as we went in and then back out a few hours later...) and the building itself is really striking and bold. Inside we looked mainly at the Canadian art section but I did pop round the European section on the upper floor too (who can resist a quick van Gogh moment, a glimpse of Klimt... not I...).

National Gallery of Canada

Ottawa stop

So on Monday we headed to the country's capital and just caught the end of the last day of the Winterlude festival there (lots of ice sculptures...). Then on Tuesday we wandered the sights on a very cold but beautifully bright day (photo above is of Suffragette statues near Parliament). We spent most of the afternoon in the National Gallery of Canada which was such an impressive building that it will get its own slideshow (next post) but for now here are some Ottawa city shots:


Monday, 21 February 2011

Haliburton Highlands

But not the whole weekend was spent dog sledding (see below). No! There was snowshoeing, pony rides (local gala day type thing), art galleries, many family restaurants (fries! Sweet potato fries!), dog walks, drinking, late nights, music. Here are some photos - some from the car (taken by her majesty), others by me. We got to Ottawa today. By 'eck, it's chilly!

Haliburton Highlands Trip

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Husky adventures

Some of you will know how much our h loves dogs... so what better winter activity for her than a dog sledding trip in the snow? We were up near Haliburton in Ontario for a long weekend with cousins and they recommended the Winterdance dog sledding place up there so off we went on Friday morning to meet Siberian huskies, the odd Alaskan husky, lots of enthusiastic staff and some other sledding beginners (like us).

It was a great outing - quite different from what we had expected as it was really hands-on and after only a short training session we were put into pairs and given teams of five dogs and sleds to drive! Mark and h were one pair and h got to do loads of the driving and checking on the dogs. It was a gorgeous day - too warm for the dogs really but nice for us. Definitely one to remember - slideshow photos below and more wintry shots to come soon.

Dog sledding

Sunday, 13 February 2011

City streets

So then on Saturday we were in downtown Toronto with another cousin. All the colourful buildings are the Kensington Market area and we were also in nearby Chinatown, on a streetcar, looking at some great street art and much more besides. For a Saturday afternoon it was all very chilled (in every sense)... and striking, very striking. All the pics in the slideshow below are Mark's.


Toronto 12.02.2011

And then today we had a big family day (19 of us, all ages, lots of brunch) and although the temperatures have risen (out of the minus figures!) there was still snow of course and so some people went what we call sledging (but is known as tobogganing here):

On the lake

So, on Friday we were up north a little visiting family and we got to walk on a frozen lake for the first time. It was called Chemong Lake and it looked a bit like this (there is a lake under there - honest!):

Some people trust that thick ice so much that they drive pick-up trucks on the lake:

Others go ice-fishing. Others clear space for the Canadian national sport:

And speaking of snow - some of you have already seen this but Roxana Ghita made this film with a poem of mine about walking in snow (text of poem is back here):


Thursday, 10 February 2011

Strange things we saw in a mall today - part 2

Rock music remade in lullaby form (Led Zep, AC/DC, U2, The Cure...).

Strange things we saw in a mall today - part 1

More flavours of popcorn than you'll ever need or want (cheese... sweet chilli... taco...).

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Arctic conditions, tropical rainforests... all in one day

Watching the polar bear

So, yesterday we went to Toronto Zoo. It was pretty amazing. Sure, on a snowy February day a lot of the outdoor African animals were nowhere to be seen but there was so much else to observe and it was all so well-designed and (best for me) it was all fairly free of human crowds (it being a Monday in midwinter...). Highlights were the Tundra section (Arctic wolves and foxes and h's favourite 3 majestic polar bears), the Sumatran orangutans and the Western Lowland gorillas but it was all pretty spectacular. Mark took a lot of photos but the best of them (still quite a lot!) can be seen here.

Toronto Zoo

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Early days

So a few quick shots from our first few days...

This is the local garden wildlife - we don't get squirrels this colour where we're from:

Then today we went bowling (5 pin - never done that before... tiny balls! Big pins!) and I wore this dazzling footwear:

Whilst there we saw this sign on a Claw machine (and couldn't resist it):

There's a loon (bird!) on a Canadian one dollar coin (if you wondered - details here).



So, yes, here we are in Canada. We arrived in Toronto on Thursday and since then we have been trying to get used to the time difference, trying to sleep, trying to wake up and generally just being confused and a little delirious. We are staying with relatives just outside the city for now and so we have been meeting up with various family members over the past few days. We've had dinner with the oldest uncle and got to know the newest cousin (only 3 months of age). h has been enjoying being the big grown-up one for a change - I can't quite believe that the big hand on this picture belongs to our little girl!

We are nearly human today so we should manage some other photos soon. Are we getting old or is it always this hard to adjust..?