September 29th, 2008 @ 5:39 am by Mike · No Comments
The next stop and also our final stop on our Canadian tour is Toronto to visit uncle Andy. Getting to Toronto was a doddle with an internal flight taking less than one hour. Even the customers and immigration was extremely laid back to the extent that I don’t recall anyone checking my passport. On arrival we was greeted by my uncle who recognized us immediately however he was expecting a 4th Goonie which we had failed to informed was not coming.
After a short car ride we arrived at uncle Andy’s where we was kindly greeted by the whole Lee (Ly) family who were all extremely kind. Andy had dinner on the cards and quickly popped out and coming back with 2 large pizza’s and a bag containing cans of fizzy pop enough to quench the thirst of 3 Goonies for a week. Despite having already eaten at the airport the team managed to polish off both pizzas with only a tiny bit of help from Uncle Andy who managed to eat 2 of the 16 large slices on offer. As we arrived late the day was already over so we had capped off the night by watching the spectacular opening ceremony from the Beijing Olympics.
On the first day we woke up bright and early after having probably the first and maybe only quiet nights sleep (minus Chris snoring). Andy was already up and popped up to our sleeping quarters informing us that we will be going out to have a Chinese breakfast. Even with the extemely tight budget we was on eating mainly from a MacDonald’s Dollar menu we probably experienced the best breakfast we ever had. It comprised of seafood congee (Chinese savory poridge), cripsy dough / break sticks to eat with congee, stews beef in a sweet ginger source on a bed of pak choi, beef stir fry on a bed of wide flat rice noodles, king prawn fried rice, a plate of stir fried flour cubes in a spicy chilly source and jasmine tea. Despite being big players in the underground world of buffet eating the team put in a poor performance finishing all but 2 dishes which we bearly grazed. We had to shamefully take home the leftovers in a doggy bag as it was far too much to throw away.
After having our breakfast which was fit enough for a king, Andy took us around downtown Toronto to walk of the stone we had put on from breakfast. Here was got to see the city hall, many of the tall skyscrapers that you would expect from a large city and also one of the many shopping centres (Eaton Centre) that are located downtown. Our walking tour of downtown was like a backpackers heaven. It was freebies galory wherever we went to the point that we had to start refusing freebies as our hands were taken up holding all the other freebies was had already collected. Next on the cards with a trip of one of three Chinatowns that are located in Toronto. The Chinatown we visited was extremely busy and bearly a non-asian person inslight apart from Chris ;). In Chinatown we learnt that if we ever needed something cheap pop down to Chinadown. John had picked up new inner soles for a dollar and if my hair was long enough I would have got a haircut for 5 dollars.
On the way back from downtown we took a new small detour to visit Casa Loma Castle which was a stunning castle formally owned by a rich Canadian, who clearly was’nt that rich as he had run out of money and could not afford to complete the building of the castle. It was later taken over by the Government who completed the castle to its current stunning state.
For dinner my Aunt had kindly got some tradional chinese dished from a restaurant. Dishes such as roast duck, roast belly pork, barbaque pork, etc, etc. Again the food was absolutely delicious and way above the standard the Goonies have resorted to eating in vein attempts to conserve our money.
In the evening Andy took us to see the CN tower at dusk so that we got to experience the towering views both in the day and night time. The views we got to experience was truely amazing but come night time the view was absolutely beautiful.
From the tower we could see many of the main attractions such as the Rogers Centre which had a live baseball game, and even the hotel which our Queen stayed at on her visit.
On day 2 we was greeted in the morning by Andy with another Chinese breakfast. Here we got to experience more tradional chinese food such as steamed barbaque pork buns and roast pork buns which my uncle liked to described as the Chinese hamburger.
After breakfast Andy took us to see Niagara Falls. The views at Niagara Falls was again stunning however none of the Goonies realised how wet you can get. The closer you got to the waterfall the heavier the spray you experienced from the crashing water. Typical of Andy he was out there to look after us and had sneakerly popped into Chinatown on the way to pick up of Chinese roll which again was absolutely delicious, healthy and as Andy described it, a Vietnamese Subway. On the way back from the Niagara falls Andy took us to see one the of first Hydro-electric power stations in Toronto and also to Niagara Park where we got to see the large Flower Clock.
As you may have got from this post so far Uncle Andy ensured the Goonies were well fed and the second evening was no exception. For this dinner Andy took us to a Chinese buffet which was recommended to him by a friend. Again being big eaters we was up to the challenge to eat for the Queen. The buffet itself was probably one of the best we have experience with actually good quality food on offer and expecially the range of quality seafood on offer such as many styles of king prawn, whole crabs, spider crab legs, etc, etc. On this meal we all near did ourself a mischief and totally abusing a bodies eating way more than need really should have. John got to the point where he ate so much that was physically could not finish his ice cream which was literally only a spoonful left. However, john did eat 3 plates of food followed by 3 bowls of dessert.
On our final day with still fairly fall stomachs from the buffet Andy yet again treated us for more food taking us to have Dim Sum for brunch. Again it was truely delicious but sadly maybe the last decent meal we will have for sometime as I suspect we will be back on the famous MacDonald’s Dollars Menu who offer an exquiste double cheese burger or McChicken sandwich for just one dollar + tax.
After our Dim Sum brunch we explored another Chinatown to walk off all the food we ate. Here I encountered probably the largest lettuce I will ever hold. After Andy had discovered our diet in American he hated the thought of us going back to it. So in this Chinatown Andy had got us all a few Vietnanese Subways and my Aunt had packed us all some Chinese Rice Parcels wrapped in lotus leaves aswell.
It was almost time to head on to our next destination but just enough time to squeeze in 2 attractions. We got to visit the Bata Shoe museum which Chris wanted to see and there use to be an old Bata Shoe Factory right next to where he use to live and also the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal museum.
Next stop Chicago, but a more healthy and well fed Goonie team.
September 25th, 2008 @ 11:06 am by Mike · 1 Comment
After spending all of our time so far in America it was time for our adventure in Canada. For this part we was going to be missing one Goonie in the form of kev who had Customs and Immirgration issues when initially entering into America. Therefore, it was understandable that Kev did not want to risk leaving America to enter Canada then to have problems again trying to re-enter America to get to Chicago. Therefore, only myself (Mike), John and Chris will ventured the moose lands of Canada.
The journey to Montreal was our first real experience of a long Greyhound bus journey. It took approximately 7 hours to get from Boston to Montreal and trying to use our time wisely, we had arranged to have an overnight journey where we had the intention to sleep during the journey that would save us on a night’s accommodation and no time wasted during the day. This of course did not work quite as planned as all 3 of us found it almost impossible to sleep on the coach and at the end of the journey we felt extremely grubby from the stuffiness of the coach.
After our 7 hour journey we arrive at Montreal and successfully walked to our hostel which took about 15 minutes after we got our bearing correct. We stayed at the Le Julliet hostel which had an excellent location as it was located right in the heart of Old Montreal. The hostel itself had bags of characher; it was very rustic using random / reclaimed material in the construction of the hostel, vibrant colours throughout, a french renaissance feel and a quirkiness that can only be experienced first hand. However, the most impressive feature of this hostel was that it only cost us 18 CAD per night.
On the first day in Montreal we decided to do a walking tour of Old Montreal to get a good introduction to the city. On the walking tour its took us through all the financial district including numerous old historic banks, Montreal’s World Trade Centre, La Basilica Notre-Dame (church), a random music library, Place D Armes Clock Tower, Old Port, various Art museums and Pointe-à-Callière (Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History). Our visit to the Pointe-à-Callière museum included a 20 minute multimedia presentation of the history of Montreal, which I thought was one of the most modern and impressive presentation I have seem so far from a museum. It was multi-dimensional displaying video imaginary from many angles and even the set / display itself moved throughout the presentation.
After getting a brief history of Montreal we pressed on to explore Parc Jean-Darpeau which consist of two man made islands that are located right in the middle of the St Lawrance River. The two islands are called Ile Notre-Dame and Sainte-Helene. The first island that we explored was Sainte-Helene that we accessed via a small ferry taking approximately 30 minutes. On Sainte-Helene is “La Ronde” which is a theme park from the Six Flag group, a large public swimming pool and the BioSphere which is an impressive looking museum addressing environmental related issues such as climate change. Of all the attractions in Sainte Helene we had only time for the BioSphere as it was already mid afternoon and we had another island to explore.
Next was Ile Notre-Damn which was only a walk across a bridge from the other island. On this Island we explored the Montreal Casino (no gambling until Las Vegas) and miles and miles of smooth tarmac which we only later discovered is the Grand Prix track for Montreal.
After a feature packed day it was time for dinner so we need to headed back to the mainlands of Old Montreal. On your ferry ride back to the mainland it rained heavily. Me and John was prepared and had our macs to keep up dry, but unfortunately Chris opted not to take a mac to got completed soaked in the signature shorts and shirt outfit that all Goonies have been sporting as it was suitable attire of any occassion, whether it is a night out in town or a walk in the park.
Come dinner time the 3 of us were extremely hungury but we are always on a budget to ensure we dont run out of funds before the end of out world tour. As a results we scoured the town and found a diner that looked reasonable in price and the fact it looked pretty cheap from the outside we assumed it was well within budget at around 20 CAD per head. The diner we had chose turnt out to be a Slovakian restaurant meaning we had no idea what to expect. As a group we shared a large salad, had individual main courses and dessert and gulped down 2 beers each. To our amazement and deceptive look of this cheap looking diner we still managed to clock up a bill that was just shy of 100 CAD, totally blowing our daily budget.
After finishing Slovakia’s finest we decide to have an early night to ensure we would wake up early. As soon as we opened the doors to get to our bed I was almost knocked out by a herendous smell of cheese. The smell was so ridicously potent that is required further investigation from the team to see if we could remedy the problem. On inspection we discovered that the smell came from a pair of shoes belonging to a frenchmen sleeping in the bunk above me. I can now understand why the french won the award for the smelliest homes in Europe in a survey, however this was boarder line criminal.
On the second day the 3 of us wake up bright and early to ensure we make the most out of the day as we need to leave by 3PM to catch a flight totoronto. The plan for the day was to visit the Olympic stadium and Mount Royal park. As we had approximately 7 hours to cover 2 attractions we decided to walk to the Olympic stadium which we had approximated to be around 4 miles away from the hostel. From this lession we learnt that we are terrible at estimating distances from a map as the Olympic stadium is alot more that 4 miles away and to make it worst be had walked alot further than we needed due to wrong directions from the chief navigator.
After taking pictures of the stadium we proceed to walk back to the hostel via Monte Royal Park. On the way back be stumbled across a few more attactions including Jardin Botanique Garden and Fontin Park which we rushed explored rapidly snapping pictures like a Japanese tourist in a desperate attempt to make up lost time. Despite our vein efforts we did not have time to fully explore Mount Royal Park and only managed to see 2 of the 7 points of interest we wanted to see in Mount Royal Park.
In true Goonies fashion we only just arrive back to the hostel to catch our taxi to the airport with quite literally minutes to spare which also included yet another detour due to poor map reading skills.
Next stop Toronto and hopefully a lesson in time management and map reading.