O, Canada! – Ottawa, Toronto & Niagara Falls

Finally, I have the opportunity to finish detailing our trip to Canada. In previous posts, I chronicled our adventures in Quebec City and Montreal. The final leg of our excursion includes Ottawa, Toronto and Niagara Falls. After attending the Montreal International Jazz Festival, my friend Donald and I headed west to Ottawa. We arrived late in the evening at Gatineau, a suburb of Ottawa located in the province of Quebec. We checked in to our hotel, Crowne Plaza Gatineau, but we were so tired that we experienced nothing outside of our beds and the shower. Both were fine and typical of a 3 star hotel, and a pretty decent value ($124 with all taxes and fees). The next morning, we headed to the Canadian Parliament to embark on our private tour. Thanks to my friend Soren, we got the VIP treatment from a communications staffer for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office. Vivek was fantastic and shared with us the fascinating history of the building, and even better, we compared and contrasted our jobs — mine as a Congressional communications staffer and his as a staffer for the Prime Minister. He was patient as I asked far too many questions, and even showed us the Prime Minister’s office. It’s an experience I won’t soon forget! Donald and I especially enjoyed watching the changing of the guard, as well as the preparations for the next day’s celebration of Canada Day.

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A view of Parliament in Ottawa

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Getting ready for Canada Day outside of Parliament in Ottawa.

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The Senate, Canadian Parliament.

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The Canadians love QEII.

Changing of the guard in Ottawa.

Changing of the guard in Ottawa.

Unfortunately, our time in Ottawa was brief, as we had plans that evening in Toronto and a four hour drive ahead of us. I must admit that driving into the city of Toronto was a bit intimidating. I’ve often driven through some congested cities – Atlanta (the worst, by far), Houston (a close second), Dallas (tied for second), Washington, D.C., New York City (Times Square, even) and my own hometown of Baton Rouge (which must have been planned by drunks, which wouldn’t surprise me anyhow). But, driving into Toronto was an utterly horrifying experience for me — cars zoomed by and switched lanes while I tried to split my attention between exit signs and the GPS mounted to my windshield. Continue reading

O, Canada! – Montreal

A few days ago, I shared our experiences on the first leg of our Canadian excursion that included Vermont and Quebec City. Now, for the second leg — and probably my favorite! — Montreal.

Following our lovely St. Lawrence River cruise, my friend Donald and I hopped in the car and headed to the magnificent Montreal. After a two and a half hour trek, complete with the mandatory stop at Tim Horton’s, we arrived at L’Hotel in Vieux Montreal (Old Montreal).

L’Hotel was so spectacular that it deserves its own description. When we got to the hotel, the staff informed us that our reservation had accidentally been canceled. Naturally, we became concerned, but the especially professional staff explained to us that there were other rooms and they would be able to accommodate us without a problem. Because it took five minutes or so to get everything arranged, the woman at the front desk offered to comp our valet parking.

L'Hotel in Vieux Montreal, courtesy of the hotel.

L’Hotel in Vieux Montreal, courtesy of the hotel.

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TSA Adds New Rules for Traveling with Electronics

Most air travelers grudgingly accept the mounting inconveniences of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA), from taking off our shoes to highly restricted possession of liquids in a carry-on, conceding that the agency is merely trying to keep Americans and visitors safe from the ongoing threat of terrorism.

Now, the TSA will add further complications to boarding an airplane — this time, in another country.

Yesterday, the TSA announced that in order to travel to the U.S. from select airports in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the airport of departure must check all electronic devices, including mobile phones and tablets. To submit your belongings for the required screenings, all battery-powered devices intended for carry-on must be operational.

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O, Canada! – Vermont & Quebec City

I enjoyed my trip to Canada immensely, and because we did so much, I’ll break it down into separate blog posts:

  • Vermont & Quebec City.
  • Montreal.
  • Ottawa, Toronto & Niagara Falls.

First, I’ll detail our visits to Vermont and Quebec City. My friend Donald and I left Washington, D.C., around 2:30 p.m. on Thursday. We were able to avoid a good bit of traffic this way. Due to road closures and construction, the state of Delaware ended up being a huge pain for us, and we lost about an hour trying to figure out how to get on the interstate again.

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Crowd-Sourcing Travel

Greetings from Washington! I’m back from my Canadian adventure (more on that later), and I’m already planning my next trip. This time, I’m heading back to London to see the sights, visit friends and watch my beloved Arsenal take on Manchester United at Emirates Stadium.

I’m going to have three or four days in the middle of the trip to explore outside of England, so I’m crowd-sourcing to determine where I should go. Here are the parameters:

1. It must be accessible by affordable transportation. Examples of these include: Ryan Air, Easy Jet, EuroStar, Virgin Trains, etc.

2. It must be safe for a twentysomething female to visit alone.

3. It must not be below freezing during the winter.

So, send me your ideas and details of why I should visit! I’ll post the best ones here and give you all the credit, of course.

Luray Saturday

My younger brother, Andrew, visited me in Washington, D.C. this weekend. He’s been cooped up in a studio apartment in Manhattan for the past few weeks, so I figured he’d want to stretch his legs in the wilderness. At the suggestion of my friend Wes, we headed southwest to Crabtree Falls. Unfortunately, my sedan could not conquer the rough terrain (it was not until we arrived that we discovered four wheel drive was necessary), and we were forced to abandon our hike. Determined not to have driven the 3-hour journey to central Virginia in vain, we considered alternate plans for our afternoon (after making a pit stop to get my car repaired from the poorly maintained roads at Crabtree Falls).

We decided to check out Luray Caverns, as D.C. residents are bombarded with television commercials about this place. At just two hours outside of the city, Luray is a quick trip for anyone looking to do some exploring.

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