We woke up at 6. We went to the hotel lobby at 6:45. We board the bus at 6:50 and we were waiting for this couple of idiots who went to the nearby subway to get breakfast. They were waiting in line for the order and would not leave without it. So the whole bus was waiting for them. This put everyone in a grouchy mood. Bad omen appeared again.
The rising of the wind blew away a lot of interest. We were going to walk to the restaurant yet the chill deterred us from loitering around.
The restaurant was situated right be the river bank with the custom building perching from a platform. This building was constructed with steps that led directly into the river. When the tides rolled in, the steps would be soaked. The restaurant building was separately constructed and it had a balcony that overlooked the river bank. It was dark and we could not see much of the river yet there were customers sitting outside with candle lid tables and enjoying their meal.
We did our usual tourist thing of visiting the Notre Dame Basilica, St Joseph Oratory and the Big O Olympic stadium. The weather was turning miserable. It was foggy and wet. We took the cable car and went to the top of the Big O and we could not see anything when the fog patches were so thick. It was disappointing.
Then things took a different turn on our way to Quebec City.
Click here for Episode 1
Our hotel is on Sherbrook Avenue. Sherbrook Avenue housed a lot of brand name stores. McGill University is also on Sherbrook. The main street St. Catherine Street is just a couple of blocks away. The location was good. The hotel was decent. The street was already dark when we settled in. We could not venture outside for too long. It took 2 cabs and a van to transport us to the restaurant.
The restaurant is inside an office building. There is a space between buildings and the restaurant built a terrace joining the outside wall of the 2 building. They add canopies to shield the sun and keep the rustic outside concrete walls of the buildings exposed. Shrubs and greenery were brought in and the atmosphere was soothing and relaxing. It was dark and we could not sit outside, so we retired to a main dining room.
Date/Time: 8th June 2012, 7:00 p.m.
Place: Fantaxia Restaurant 樂逍遙
|Ironstone Obsession Sympohony
|Winery/Producer: Ironstone Vineyards
|Region: California, USA
|Food to pair: 蓮花仙子 Scallops
|LCBO #: 355784
|Remarks:A sure sign that spring has sprung is the return of this bright and breezy aromatic wonder. Ironstone’s ever-popular Obsession is made with the Symphony grape, which is a cross between Grenache Gris and Muscat of Alexandria. Like Muscat it’s got a perfumed nose with fresh peach and orange-blossom aromas. There’s a delicious touch of balanced sweetness here, which makes this wine a fabulous match for medium-spiced Indian dishes.Highlighted by a floral nose, it is very aromatic. On the palate, tastes include peach and fresh flowers with a bit of sweetness on the finish.
The sights over Seattle were beautiful with islands and lakes everywhere. The city itself was not spectacular, I thought. However, we would love to re-visit Seattle one day to find out more. When the plane approached San Jose, the view from the plane’s window seat was awesome as we had to fly over San Francisco Bay to get there. The lush green terrain with low mountains is very different from the Australian mainland as the wetlands and lagoons are joined by bridges. There was quite a fair bit of human activities judging from above the ground although it seemed not to be overdeveloped, thanks to the environmentalists. It was amazingly beautiful and fertile with rivers and lakes intertwined the landscape and low hills were green with vegetation.
They say that Australian share common values with Canadians and Americans. This is true only to a certain extent because in the land of plenty that is Canada and the US, you can be over generous with food and beverages. Things are much more expensive in Australia, thus Aussies are meaner and leaner. For example, we pay AUD18.95 for a packet of 20 cigarettes. In the US, I noticed that the general price was less than a third at USD5.95. No wonder that people of all ages and across gender smoke when cigarettes are so cheap! Maybe it was a dirty plot to keep prices down to lure people into smoking. Who knows?
Clothing was about the same ratio in terms of price, may even be more than half. In Australia, we must have paid more than double than you guys in North America. Richmond is already inexpensive to shop but Tommy was telling me that sometimes he goes on shopping trips across the border to Portland in Oregon where they don’t pay any sales tax. We noticed the prices in Las Vegas where they sold top quality clothes and cosmetics for much less than people pay in Australia. In fact, I saw some shopping outlets on the Canadian border near Seattle advertising to their customers that their goods are just as inexpensive as in the US. So why shop in the US?
We were on a 12 day river cruise from July 26 to August 6 to Russia, starting from St. Petersburg, going through the Russian internal waterway, visiting the towns and cities along the way and ending in Moscow.
This is the second time we visited St. Petersburg. The last time was in 1995 when we took the cruise to the Baltics. The city surely looked better. There were less pot holes but more cars on the roads, the public transportation vehicles were less dilapidated, and the number of young vendors selling pins and medals in the streets was much smaller. It did appear that there was a change for the better. Putin no doubt has done a credible job, even though Russia is still poor by comparison. We understand that unemployment rate is 6% but it is not evenly distributed. While there are jobs in the big cities as in St. Petersburg and Moscow, people elsewhere are still hard done by. Wealth is in the hands of a very few. Pension age is 55 for women and 60 for men. The average life span of a Russian man is however only 59. No wonder we did see a lot of elderly women selling small baskets of fruits and flowers from their own back yards to make ends meet.
On the other hand, the palaces tell another story. Anybody who has visited them do not have to dig very deep to get to the causes for the 1917 revolution. We saw three of their most famous palaces, The Hermitage, Catherine’s Palace and Peterhof and had a glimpse into the past glory and decadent life style enjoyed by the Czars and their families. In our minds, the Russian palaces are unrivalled in the world. “Glittering with gold” is to be taken literally as the palaces are plastered with gold leaves everywhere. The numerous paintings and artifacts displayed in the Hermitage which used to be the Romanovs’ winter palace and is now a museum are not only national but world treasures; the amber room in Catherine’s Palace dazzles and boggles the mind and the many glorious and magnificent fountains in Peterhof provide us with an insight into Peter the Great’s vision as an architect of the Russian Empire. We come up short with words to describe with justice the richness of these palaces and hopefully the pictures and videos will do a better job.
The first thing to consider when renting a car in Italy is to get one just big enough for your needs. We learned it the hard way when we were faced with the daunting task of driving an eight-seater (for seven people) in the country roads in Provence last year. The small Fiat we had this time was just fine for the two of us. It was easier to manoeuvre in the narrow and winding roads in the Lake Como district in the north of Italy and finding a snug parking spot was not an impossible dream anymore.
On the whole, Italian drivers were no worse than their counterparts in North America. Surely, they used their horns much more liberally and many would whiz past us in full speed when we were picking our way gingerly along the single lane mountain roads, but that happened here too. The biggest adjustment we had to deal with was their road signs. Even in a tourist destination like Lake Como, the Italians still did not want to divulge too much information. Signs were posted on the points of entry and departure to tell us where we were then but that was about it. Without a map at all times, we would have no idea as to where we were heading next. You would think they had to do better in the highways. Think again. We drove about 120 kms to Verona one day from Como. That particular highway ended in Venice. If we didn’t know that was the right way according to the map, we would be really worried because they gave no indication that Verona was on the same route. Only the name of Venice and the distance to it was occasionally posted. We had to gauge for ourselves the approximate mileage to any other city along way. They did put out little signs on the left when we were close to Verona and fortunately we did not miss them.
From our London experience, we learned to return our car prior to going into Milan and used their subway. We bought day passes which would allow us to make unlimited trips within the city boundary. For a two day pass, we only paid 5.50 euros. It was a good deal. The subway system was fast and efficient and not difficult to figure out at all. We found that driving in the country but taking public transportation in the city yielded the most flexibility.
To watch Lake Como video click here
To watch Verona & Milan video click here
Place: Fantaxia Restaurant樂逍遙