Archive for the ‘Canada’ Category

14 May 2005: Toronto Downtown, Canada

Finally got a chance to visit Toronto downtown. My business meeting ended early, giving me a couple of hour in the downtown. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me; these pictures taken from my mobile phone did not turn our great.

CN Tower

Dubbed as Canada’s “Wonder of the World”, the Canadian National Tower (or commonly knowned as CN Tower) is one of the world’s tallest buildings. Towering at 553m (or 1815 ft) in height, the CN Tower has long been a source of pride for Canadians since 1976 – they had demonstrated the ability to build a tower taller than any other in the world. The CN Tower was erected for a more practical reason. In the 60s, the construction boom created major telecommunications problems in this downtown. The reception issues was solved after building the CN Tower. 

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Eaton Centre
The Eaton Centre is one of the most visited retail establishment in Canada. The mall was named after an Irish immigrant, Timothy Eaton, who came to Canada more than 150 years ago. He built his first store in 1869 and the Eaton organisation started to build this mall in late 1970s. The mall is modelled after Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, which has a similar design of a glass-domed ceiling that runs the length of the centre. The Eaton Centre is six stories tall and houses more than 285 stores and restaurants. You can find just about anything you need here.
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I was surprise to see a Hard Rock Cafe directly across the Eaton Centre, with the iconic electric guitar. The cafe’s motto “Love All, Serve All” was adopted from Tigrett’s guru Sathya Sai Baba.
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Metropolitan United Church, Toronto
Leaving the Eaton Centre, I chanced upon the Metropolitan Wesleyan Methodist Church at the corner of Church Street, a gay-oriented community. This neo-Gothic church unites the Methodists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists …
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Further down Church Street is the St.Michael’s Cathedral. Built by William Thomas in 1848 and financed by the Irish immigrants, this is one of the oldest Roman Catholic cathedral in Toronto.
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It was a short adventure; nonetheless, I took it as a bonus treat.


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16 May 2005: Toronto, Canada

The Niagara Falls straddle on the international border between the Canadian province of Ontario and the U.S New York State. It was as if God was uncertain who should be endowed with this amazing fall and decided in the end, to please both. Today, I hopped onto a tour bus to see this great wonder of the natural world from the Canadian border.


Niagara Falls is over a hundred km from Toronto. Along the journey, we stopped by a beautiful Canadian town in Southern Ontario called Niagara-on-the-Lake. The “lake” that meets the Niagara River is Lake Ontario. This is a small and quiet town, decorated with planted colourful tulips

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There were no large retain chains here, but the independently owned shops created a unique shopping experiences…

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Niagara Falls

At lunch, I had the first glimpse of the magnificant falls from the restaurant.

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The Niagara Falls is divided into the Horseshoe Falls and the American Falls.  The Horseshoe Falls, commonly called as the Canadian Falls, is the waterfall on the Niagara River on the Canadian border. About 90% of the the flow from the Niagara River goes over the Horseshoe Falls.

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The falls is so strong that it produces a large amount of mist, which makes viewing difficult. To have a close-up view of the fall, we ride on the Maid of the Mist boat to the base of the falls. We were asked to put on a blue raincoat to prevent being drenched. As the boat approached the bottom of the falls, our spirits were heightened by the heavy pounding downpour of heavenly fluids. Everyone was wet but none of our emotions was drowned.

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niagara fall maiden of the mist

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On the other side is the American Falls, which is located within the US State of New York. In comparison with the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls is much milder.

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Clifton Hill

We spent another 30 min at Clifton Hill, the major tourist promenade next to the Niagara Falls. The attractions on this street include Ripley’s Believe It or Not!  and the Guinness World Records Museum

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niagara fall flowers

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Birchwood Estate Wines

The Niagara Peninsula produces almost three quarters of Canada’s grape-wines.The growing season sunshine is comparable to Southern France of both Burgundy and Bordeaux, or Tuscany, Italy.  Wines grown in such temperate climates can produce superior fruit, with more complexity and intense flavours than in warmer climates. The region’s temperatures are strongly influenced by Lake Ontario. In spring, the breezes from its winter-cooled waters help to hold back the development of fruit buds until the danger of late spring frosts has passed. In Summer, the lake cools the grapes so they do not ripen too quickly.

We visited Birchwood Estate Winery. Established in 2000, it was a recent winner at the prestigious Cuvée Wine Awards with its 2005 Vidal Ice wine. Ice wine is a dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while they are still on the vine. Only the water content is frozen but the sugars do not get frozen; thus creating a more concentrated and very sweet wine.


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20 – 21 May 2005: Montreal, Canada

The decision to spend my weekend in Montreal was made very briskly. I chanced upon this idea on late Friday night; did some research on the internet to book the train ticket and hotel accomodation and started to pack my weekend bag. Simple as that!

Early Saturday morning, I boarded the VIA Rail Canada and began a 4.5- hours train journey from Toronto to Montreal. By afternoon, I arrived at Montreal Central Train Station and checked into Sheraton Four Points Montreal. This hotel is strategically located at the foot of McGill University and Montreal’s downtown. 

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Montreal is the biggest city in the Quebec province where almost everybody speaks french. In fact, it is the second largest french-speaking population in the world. The city was founded in the 17th century as Ville-Marie but later became Montréal. Montreal became well-known to the  world when it hosted the Olympics in 1976.   

Place d’Armes   

It is relatively easy to find your way in Montreal on foot. My first stop was at the old square in the center of Montréal’s French-Canadian history.  The area was called Place d’Armes or “parade ground” in French. Dating back to the 17th century, it was a popular spot with the locals, who came to see the members of the military engaged in parades. Right at the corner of the street stood the prominent boutique Hotel Place d’Armes.

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Notre-Dame Basilica 

Facing the Place d’Armes Square is the famous Notre-Dame Basilica, Montreal’s oldest Catholic church. 

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Built in 1656, it is renowned for its intricate interior designs. The ceiling is coloured with deep blue and decorated with golden stars and the rest of the sanctuary uses a polychrome of blues, reds, purples, silver and gold. There are hundreds of grand wooden carvings and several religious statues. The most unique architecture is the extensive use of stained glass to relate the city’s religious history. 

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In the western tower is a 12-ton bell (commonly known as “the large bumblebee”) the largest bell on the continent. There is also a 7000-pipe Casavant organ (again, the largest on the continent).  The Notre Dame is known as the “the wedding chapel” by the local, whereby hundreds of Montrealers get married each year. Notably, my favourite singer, Celine Dion, was married here in 1994.

Notre Dame is an active house of worship, so touring can be done only in between scheduled masses. Fortunately, the basilica offers a sound and light show “And Then There Was Light” every evening from Tuesday to Saturday. This allows tourist to visit the basilica and learn the history of the church.

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Marché Bonsecours

Walking through a few streets, I came to Marché Bonsecours, Montréal’s central market for decades. Tinted with a bit of Canadian history, it is a wonderful place to enjoy a little shopping. Amd it was this place where Charles Dickens and his band of actors once performed in a theatre. This Bonsecours Market is built in the neo-Classical style with a long façade and a distinctive silvery dome, showing off its crowning glory.

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Next to the central market is Hotel de Ville or Montreal City Hall. This spectacular building, built in the French Second Empire style (i.e., the Napoleon III style), took six years to complete in 1878.  The facade is decorated with ornate balconies, grand turrets, and a view-commanding pointed roof. No wonder it is a popular spot for wedding photo takings!
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Pointe Archeology Museum
The Museum of Archaeology and History was founded in 1992 to mark Montréal’s 350th birthday. It houses hundreds of artifacts, and each piece relates a story of the past, fostering a debate on urban issues faced both locally and globally. The museum visit begins with an audiovisual show on an overview of the area from the Ice Age to the present. After the show, you can descend below street level to the bank of the River St. Pierre. It was here that the first settlers of Montreal built their homes and traded goods with the Native American inhabitants.
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On the roof-top of the museum, you can catch a bird-eye view of this beautiful city and the water-front.

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Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts

After my fulfilling coffee and doughnut at Tim Hortons (Canada’s largest food operator), I headed straight to the Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts. The weather was gloomy and a sizeable queue had already formed, waiting for it to open the doors. This is the oldest museum in Canada with a large collection spreading over a few pavilions.  It has an extensive collection of artifacts from all over the world, with a well balance of local Candian arts, as well as European art works by Dalí, Rembrandt, Picasso and Rodin.

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Contempoary Museum
In downtown Montreal, there is a Museum of Contemporary Art, boasting over 5,000 permanent works of contemporary art. Its exhibits feature many media, from paintings to sculptures, presented in a thought-provoking and fun way.
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Perhaps it the french influence, Montreal is packed with art virtually at any corner or street.
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For example, this unique building along Saint Catherine Street…
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And even the china town is not spared by the tinge of bon-jour …
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And streets filled with beautiful, contrasting pink and white bossoms …          

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Mount Royal Park

 This is my last destination before I return back to Vaughan, Toronto. The aim was to get to Montréal’s highest peak and see the city in full view.  However, I got dis-oriented and pivoted off-the-tracks. Drenched in the light rain, I still enjoyed the fresh air, the green and calm serenity. For it was here, I finally got to see maple leaves, blushing in red on the branches.

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