Sunday, June 30, 2013

Happy Birthday Canada!

It's Canada's birthday on July 1st. She will be 146 years old.

I send my very best wishes for a safe and happy celebrations to all my Canadian blogger friends.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sky Over Vancouver

I snapped this photo in Vancouver last weekend.  We've had dry periods here and there  but the sky is still very gray.

Vancouver continues to get a lot of rain but probably not as much as Alberta where the Bow and Elbow rivers have overflowed and flooded cities and towns across southern Alberta.  Calgary's downtown core was under water, while other towns like Canmore, High River and Medicine Hat have also been hard hit.  and under water.  Altogether about 100,000 people have been evacuated due to the floods.  Economists are saying that the flooding in Calgary will cost the economy billions of dollars and that Canada's economy as a whole will also suffer a reduction in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by several billion dollars.

On Monday the premier of the province said she thought it would take 10 years to fully rebuild the flood damaged areas of the province because a lot of the infrastructure (highways, etc.) has been damaged.

Regardless of  the huge issues created by the floods, the City of Calgary is attempting to regroup and forge ahead with their annual rodeo, the Calgary Stampede. The president of the stampede said it will go ahead "come hell or high water"on July 5th. It will be a huge challenge but in it's 101 year history, the stampede has never been cancelled despite two wars and the Great Depression.

Please keep the entire province in good thoughts and prayers.
There is so much damage and it is stressful to human and animals alike who have all been affected.

I'm linking up with Sky Watch Friday today.
Have a good weekend everyone.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

One Day Last Summer

I came across these beautiful scenes one day last summer driving through the beautiful Rocky Mountain range. Our trip takes us south on Highway 93 (see map below for a general idea of location).

We were on our way from visiting my uncle in northern Alberta and stopping in to see my mother in Kamloops.  Much of northern Alberta is very flat, farming land. When your journey takes 15 hours or more, it is nice to have visual feast to look at on the drive back to British Columbia.

Click to enlarge the map.  The black like from Edmonton to Kamloops shows part of our route.

Hope you enjoyed the sky and scenery pics today. Join in at Sky Watch here to enjoy more wonderful skies. Have a wonderful weekend.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Images from Montreal, Province of Quebec

Crossing into Canada at St. Bernard-de-La-colle (sometimes called Blackpool Border Crossing)

The line ups were not that long but as always we seemed to be in the slow lane. When we got to the customs officer he was very nice and very chatty. That might explain why the line was so slow to move. At least it was a pleasant change to have a friendly customs agent.

City skyline as we approached Montreal from the south.

I am not sure what the name of the bridge is but as we drove around, I discovered it is closer to Old Montreal.

Finding one's way in a new place is always challenging but Montreal seems to have good signage compared to some of the places I travelled just prior (like Albany, NY where I couldn't find the sign to enter the city from the freeway).
I always like to see horse drawn carriages in a large city though I wouldn't like to be riding behind a smoking tour guide.
We easily found our way to Old Montreal (Vieux Montréal)

I love these French/European style buildings and rounded corners.

Notre Dame Basilica completed in 1829.

It is located on Rue Notre Dame (Notre Dame Street).

I enjoy street scenes.

The Canadian Grand Prix Races had concluded the day before we arrived hence the flags in every shop.

I didn't catch the name of this restaurant but I recognize it as one that Anthony Bourdain featured on one of his layover television shows.

Tourist Information Center in Old Montreal
Street Scene

CBC Montreal is the tower on the left as seen through the trees. You can see all the satellite dishes around and a lovely old church too.

A full on view of the CBC Towers

Quebec Court of Appeal

Three flags: Quebec (blue & w hite) & Canada's flag (red & white) and the City of Montreal (red, white, blue, pink & green).

The city skyline shows a lot of construction going on. It seems to be the case everywhere we visited and is the case here at home too.

Making our way to the Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport, renamed after one of Canada's Prime Ministers.

 Our World Tuesday Graphic
 Check out OWT submissions here.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sights & Lights of New York City

I recently returned from a quick vacation to New York and other parts of eastern Canada and the USA. I've got all kinds of photos and too many to share individually. So I've decided to make a few collages. I hope you enjoy them (click on photo collages to enlarge)

When visiting New York we stayed in Neptune Township, New Jersey one night so we could be close to Asbury and the Boardwalk there (those photos to come a bit later).  Accommodations were at the Holiday Inn Express in Neptune Township. It was a very clean and comfortable hotel and a short and inexpensive ride to the boardwalk.  If you have a car, it is also located very close to some shopping but I wouldn't recommend a walk to the shopping since the hotel is located on a busy street. Despite it's location, I didn't find it noisy at all.

After visiting Neptune Township we stayed for several nights at the Holiday Inn in Secaucus, New Jersey. I was able to get this hotel on my Priority Club points.  After years of saving points on Airmiles and not really needing or wanting anything from their rewards offerings, I converted my points to Priority Club and was able to get this lovely hotel.  The hotel is recently renovated with beautiful calming colours and offers everything you could want:  friendly staff, free hotel shuttle within the city limits and to the NJ train station, Starbucks coffee, and is conveniently located within a shopping complex with many shops, restaurant and cinemas nearby.

Buildings & street life

The car can be parked for free in the hotel parking lot and and you can take a city bus from across the street or take the hotel shuttle bus to the train station.  On the train it is a short journey into Manhattan where you will be dropped off at the Penn Street Station (central station for connections).  This is an excellent way to avoid the astronomical parking fees in Manhattan as well as the chaos of the city traffic.

My main goal in New York City (NYC) was to go to the Observation Deck of the Empire State Building (ESB).  I didn't think I would make it due to the heavy storm caused by Tropical Storm Andrea the previous night.  But when I awoke the next morning the sky was sunny.  Throughout that day it alternated between sun and clouds.  It was a perfect day to walk around Manhattan and to look out from the top of the ESB.  There was a nice breeze blowing throughout the day though the weather was quite humid as is the norm during summers in eastern Canada and the USA.

My left knee had begun to act up on the morning of my walk so I found the short walk from Penn Station to ESB quite far for me.  Thankfully I had my walking poles with me though I must have looked quite a sight walking the streets of Manhattan.  Walking around I wondered how those who are mobility challenged get around NYC.  I only saw one man in a wheelchair. He was also going to the top of the ESB.  On the streets, I only saw one older woman who was using a walker.  

After walking about 5 blocks I reached the ESB and was pleased to find out that the waiting time to get to the observation deck was only about 30 minutes. I went immediately to the 2nd level where I purchased my ticket and got in line.  Regular tickets to the Observation Deck are $25. If you wish to by pass the line up and go straight to the top, the tickets cost just over $47.  You can also purchase your tickets on line and pick them up at the ESB where there are ticket dispensers at the start of the line up.  By the time I got to the ticket wicket,  I was told the waiting time was now 45 minutes. I still thought that the wait was short given that it is a top tourist attraction in NYC. I had read on line that the best times to visit the ESB are at 8 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. and after 8:00 p.m. I didn't want to go so early or so late so I got there close to 3 p.m. and true enough the wait time wasn't so bad.

At about the half way point in the line I was channelled through a section where a photographer took my photo.  They seem to do this for all parties whether you want it or not.  When you exit the ESB, you can view the photo and decide whether you want to purchase it at a cost of $20.  I opted not to purchase mine.

At the top of the ESB, I was treated to  360 degree views.  It was easy to make out a number of the landmarks without the help of the tour help the ESB staff will rent to you.  If you are unfamiliar with the city landmarks and want to make sure you learn more about them, I think the cost of the device with recorded tour information is a good value at $5 which 2 people can share.

After you decide whether you want to purchase your photo or not, you will be channelled through a store where you can purchase memorabilia if you wish. I purchased a small snow globe with some of the NYC skyline inside. That was $10. I also purchased some water (another $4) as I was getting rather thirsty.  I guess I could have waited for the water but I didn't know how long it might be before I got to a restaurant.

Now you might wonder what you do in a long line up if you need to use the restroom.  I am happy to report that the ESB seems very well equipped with washroom facilities.  I also noticed that the first washrooms have long lines up so it is better to wait until you get nearer the end of the line.  There are numerous toilet facilities located at several junctures throughout the wait line. There are also washrooms on the Observation Deck itself.  When you finally get into the elevator to go to the Observation Deck you will get out on the 80th Floor.  There you will see lots of information about the ESB, including historical information and some of the improvements that are being made to the building for environmental reasons.  Then you stand in line again to catch the elevator to the 86th Floor where the Observation Deck is located. Some people opt to go even higher to the 102 Floor. I didn't bother with that as I'd heard that it is enclosed and not really worth it. It costs more money to visit at the higher level and the cost depends on whether you wish to by pass the others in the line up.

While I was on the Observation Deck, the sun was not shining but that was good because it was a humid day.  There was a nice breeze and the sun would peek out every now and then.  There is enough colour in the buildings so as not to be so dull.

Exiting the Observation Deck, I found I was quite tired as I had been standing for several hours. I asked the one of the ESB hosts about what a person does when he/she is disabled and can't stand for many hours.  They said just ask one of the hosts and you would be escorted right to the front of the line.  So that is good information to know if you have any kind of mobility issue.

After leaving the ESB, I needed a snack and refreshment.  We went to a rather expensive restaurant (independent of ESB) located right at ground level. There I swapped travel stories with two women from Syracuse in upstate New York.  After resting a bit it was another walk of 15 blocks or so to the Theater District of Times Square and to Rockefeller Center (known as the GE Building) where NBC and CBS have their news offices.

All these advertisements made me want to take in ALL the plays but alas I did not have time.  Two nights later, I saw that Kinky Boots (see billboard) had won the Tony Award for Best Musical.

It was fun soaking up all the vibes in this area of Manhattan.

I think seeing The Lion King would be so much fun.  Maybe I will see it when the show tours again.

 More buildings, taxis & billboards

When we were ready to leave Times Square and Rockefeller Centre, we walked back another 17 blocks or so to Penn Station. Needless to say I was very tired from the pain, the long walk and the humidity.  I was very happy to sit down and rest awhile on the train during my journey back to Secaucus.  I was equally happy to have been able to complete my mission of visiting the ESB.

Penn Station is underneath Madison Square Garden.

Penn Station is a major intercity train station and a major commuter rail hub in New York City.  You can  catch the Amtrak to many points or find your way to NJ Trains and Long Island Railroad at the station.

Street life @Times Square

Hook up with Skywatch Friday here.

Tuesday 4 ~ Books

Welcome back to Toni Taddeo's Tuesday 4 . Books are such a big part of many people's lives. Maybe we should talk about that. 1. Do y...