Archive for the ‘Summer Vacation 2013’ Category

July, 2013 Hodge-Podge   2 comments

Apologies if this doubles as the “Summer Vacation 2013 Hodge-Podge.”

My daughter, writing in her journal.
Caitlin Journalling

We at a lot of arepas. Three different restaurants! We need more Latin American choices in Cincinnati!

Our favorite place was in Montreal.
Arepa Place

We visit two pen stores. Paper Papier, in Ottawa, was recommended to me by @gourmetpens. My daughter got some stationary for a letter to her teacher.
Paper Papier

In Montreal, we visited Essence du Paper. It’s where my anniversary present came from. I dug this shop.
Essence du Paper

Even though it’s obvious that digital photography is rapidly displacing film, I was still surprised to see SanDisk co-equal to Kodak at tourist shops.
SanDisk Coequal to Kodak

Fencing at the Montreal Jazz Festival…notice the cat-notes.
Cat Notes

While on summer vacation in Nashville last year, we discovered Chuy’s, a Tex-Mex restaurant. We liked it so much, we stopped at one in Bowling Green on our way home. We were excited when one opened in Florence, Kentucky (near the Cincinnati Airport). In August, one will be opening in Cincinnati. We won spots to the “Red Fish Rally,” which gave folks a chance to sample their food, get free t-shirts, and hang with The King.
With Elvis!

Ready for our next adventure.
Traveling Cat Geek

Caitlin, Ready for Take-Off
Taken at the Canadian Museum of Aviation and Space. I’m rather proud of this shot.

Posted 2013-07-31 by Mr. Guilt in Hodge-Podge, Summer Vacation 2013

One Hundred Megabytes of Data   5 comments

Our summer vacation was my first trip outside of the United States since 2003. While cell phones were common, they could do little more than make a phone call. In the intervening ten years, SmartPhones have become ubiquitous. While I’m constantly pulling out my iPhone, I can go days without actually talking to someone on it. Every time we’ve traveled, it served as our map, guide book, restaraunt guide, travel agent, camera, and occasional pacifier. It’s hard to imagine going on the road without it.

During our trip, we were forced to.

Most carriers’ plans will work in the US, but not, by default, outside of the country (likewise, a Canadian plan won’t work, by default, in the US). As it was a driving trip, I wanted to at least have phone service for emergencies, as well as for the odd work call. I also wanted data for all the reasons already mentioned. WiFi is pretty common, especially in hotels, so we could use our phone in a lot of places. To cover us outside of that zone, I set up our “overseas data plan” to give each of our phones 100 MB of data–a fraction of our usual data plan. In an average week, we each use 200 MB. On one hand, that includes work e-mail and other things we could shut off. On the other hand, we were in unfamiliar territory.

Conservation became the watchword. First and foremost, I held off my social media participation. My wife figured out how to cache map directions when we had WiFi, to reduce our data dependence. Guidebooks from AAA found a place in the car. In short: for a week, we had to revert to a pre-iPhone state. Could we do it?

We could. For the first day or two, while standing in line, I would pull out my phone and refresh twitter, only to be reminded that data was turned off. Eventually, I found other ways to occupy dead spaces–cleaning my camera lenses, talking to my wife, or just looking around. As noted, we had to plan a bit more carefully. We relearned a few truths. We grabbed any map we could, to help navigate absent clear directions. We were reminded that guidebooks are far from comprehensive in their listing of food offerings. When it came to hours and prices of activities, they are only as up-to-date as when they are printed.

I could certainly tell when we had the data on. Without the data, we were more likely to wander aimlessly looking for just the right restaurant. With data on the phone, we had plenty of options, and could navigate there confidently. We knew what direction we were heading, and waht was around every corner. When driving from Montreal to Toronto, it was a nice failsafe for finding a hotel. We went from mere mortals to omniscient superbeings.

Does this mean we’re too dependent on data? I’m not sure that’s an accurate characterization. The limitations on guidebooks and maps is inherent to the medium. Maps only work if you have them with you. With a bit more effort, we could have survived without mobile internet, but I think we would not have been as smart about where we were, and would have missed out on opportunities for some great things. The limited data, however, helped balanced some of my worst habits around checking twitter (or, worse, work e-mail). By the end of the week, pulling out my phone idlely was dramatically reduced.

We don’t have any trips scheduled in the near future, much less internationally. But the next time we do, making sure we have some level of international support for our SmartPhones will be on the packing list next to “dig out our passports.”

Niagara Falls   2 comments

Our last vacation stop on our big road trip (as opposed to just an in-transit stop) was Niagara Falls. We crossed the border on the sadly named “Rainbow Bridge,” after about twenty minutes in line. We parked at Niagara Falls State Park. We did the Cave of the Winds tour, which let us go down near the base of the Bridal Veil Falls.
Bridal Veil Falls

The Magic Hour was just about hour as we got back to the top. We took a look at the Horseshoe Falls as the sun set.
Horseshoe Falls

One last look at the Falls, and we began our drive back to Cincinnati. It was a great vacation, we saw and did a lot, and made some great memories.
Bridal Veil Falls, from the Top

Posted 2013-07-15 by Mr. Guilt in Summer Vacation 2013

Toronto’s Kensinton Market and Chinatown.   Leave a comment

The afternoon of our last day on vacation we spent walking through Toronoto’s Kensington Market and Chinatown.
CN Tower (1a)

I’m not the most confident at street photography, so I didn’t take too many photographs. There was some sort of dragon dance, but we thought that, by the time we made it across the street, we’d miss it.

In the Kensington Market area, we saw some moose on the roof.
Moose on a Roof

It was a good afternoon.
CN Tower (2)

Posted 2013-07-14 by Mr. Guilt in Summer Vacation 2013

All Over the Toronto Zoo   1 comment

A six hour drive westward brought us from Montreal to Toronto, where Canada’s largest zoo is located. The Toronto Zoo has a large collection of animals, as well as visitors in the parking lot.
Birds on Cars

In terms of area, this is the largest zoo I’ve seen with the exceptions of the Wilds and the San Diego Zoo Wild Animal Park. Most of the large animals had enormous enclosures. For example, the bison practically had a prairie.
Bison in the Field

The Bison were in the Canadian Domain section. Half of the small cats we saw were there. Two Canadian Lynxes were hanging out in the drizzle. One was trying to hide from the rain.
Lynx Hiding from the Rain

The other didn’t let it deter him.
Lynx in the Rain

They also had a pair of cougars. When we were standing there, we learned that a government agency released a couple of cougars to take care of an overpopulation of fishers, a fierce member of the weasel problem.
Relaxed Cougar

We saw plenty of “moose crossing” signs as we drove through Quebec, but never saw a moose (or a deer, for that matter). We watched this gentle giant enjoy his lunch.
Moose (No Squirrel)

The big thrill in Canadian Domain was the grizzly. One appeared to be juvenile.
Romping Young Grizzly

The boisterous youngster seemed to be intent on playing with an older bear. Personally, I wouldn’t mess with her.
Mama Bear

Adjacent to the Canadian Domain was the Tundra Trek, showing the animals of the Arctic.
Peeping Wolf

Our favorite was the Arctic wolves.
Arctic Wolf

The Arctic fox was displaying his summer coat.
Arctic Fox, Summer Coat


I liked the snowy owl.
Snowy Owl

The polar bear was having a lazy afternoon.
In a Cave

One thing I found interesting was an inuksuk, a marking stone used by the Inuit.

The America’s section was home to the otters.
Underwater Otter

We always love the antics of river otters.
Otter on the Float

Waving Otter
Hi there!

The spectacled owls watched us as we entered.
Spectacled Owls

One enclosure had parrots and capybaras. A capybara got a bit too curious about the parrots’ goings on.
Nosy Capybara

He was escorted off their perch.
Pushy Parrot

The Toronto Zoo has two jaguars. One is tawny, taking a bath.
Bathing Jaguar

The other was melanistic. It looked a little like Luna.
Black Cat

The cheetah keeper was giving a talk at 1:30. We got there at 1:27, and saw no cats. Right as my watched hit half-past, we saw a head.
Peeking Cheetah

Zeek the cheetah knew when he’d get a snack.
Zeek Looks for His Snack

Happy Cheetah

Such a handsome cat.


Next door was a white lion pride. A male.
Lion Meatloafing

…and two females.

We watched them for a bit. I think we bored him.
Dreamy Lion

Obviously, this was in the Africa section, also home to Southern white rhinos.
Rhino Butt!

The antelope played in the drizzle.

And African elephants. African elephants have larger ears than their Asian counterparts.
African Elephant

I’ve seen plenty of pictures of sugar gliders, but I don’t think I’ve seen one in person before.
Sugar Glider

This was in the indoor Australia exhibit. I liked the reptiles, such as a one year old emerald tree boa.
Juvenile Emerald Tree Boa

The bearded dragon just watched.
Bearded Dragon

A sign indicated that their clouded leopard was an older cat, and the zoo keepers were trying to keep her comfortable. She simply dozed as an older feline should.
Tired Cloudie

The gaur is a fairly rare species–from what I can tell, the Toronto Zoo is the only one in North america who has them. Also known as the Indian Bison, it is the tallest species of wild cattle.

The spider tortoise is one of the smallest of the tortoise species.
Spider Tortoise

Only one of the two subspecies of tiger, the Sumatran tiger, was visible when we went.
Relaxed Tiger

A reindeer was sprinting around his enclosure. It was fun to watch him run.
Reindeer Sprint!

The Toronto Zoo is getting two giant pandas on a five-year loan.
Panda, from Above

There was a large “Interpretive Center” on the way in, speaking about these creatures. It left me perplexed: they eat only one species of bamboo, but only get nutrients from about half of what they consume. They eat all of their waking life. Have they become overspecialized?
Panda with Bamboo

The Eurasian exhibit was, for the most part, closed. A tram went through part of it. We were told we could see the snow leopard, and given a series of wrong directions, leading us to circumnavigate much of the zoo, only to finally find out that, while the snow leopards were still at the zoo, they could not be seen while we were there. This exhibit is being remodeled, set to open in 2014. This was a major disappointment to me.

However, it was still a very impressive zoo. We were there pretty much from opening to close, and I’m not entirely sure how we would have fit in another section during our time there. The exhibits were well done, and there was a lot of space for the animals living there.

Old Montreal   Leave a comment

Looking Up at Notre Dame

We spent dusk in Old Montreal, the original site of the city, established in 1642. We spent a fair amount of time driving on its cobblestones (wishing for a road bike), or just walking around.
Streets of Old Montreal

Marché Bonsecours is public market, opening in 1847.
Marché Bonsecours

It is down the street from Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel, founded in 1771.
Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel

Our last stop was the Notre Dame Basilica. At the time of its completion in 1843, it was the largest church in North America. I’m really pleased with how the colors came out on this picture.
Notre Dame v1

Posted 2013-07-12 by Mr. Guilt in Summer Vacation 2013

My Puffin Education   5 comments

In Montreal, we paid a visit to the Biodôme, a facility that replicates the four environments found in North America (rainforest, woodlands, the waterway of the Saint Lawrence river, and the arctic). Each of four areas was populated with the flora and fauna of the respective environment. It was a fun site to visit.

The tropical area had not only the parrots, but a pair of caimans.

In the Saint Lawrence, some birds splashed about.
Just Splashin' Around

The sole cat was a Canadian lynx (there was a live camera of the other lynx…and their kittens).
Canadian Lynx

In the arctic, there were penguins and puffins. I don’t think I’ve ever seen puffins in person before.
Puffins on a Rock

I always assumed they were similar to penguins, and therefor flightless. But looking at their wings, they were of a different design.
Puffin Wingspan

In spite of their stout bodies, puffins can fly! Though their enclosure didn’t permit a lot of space, I got to see short hops.

I learned something pretty cool!
Puffin Flight

The Biodôme is located on the site of the 1976 Summer Olympics–the building was originally the velodrome. Next to it was the stadium, with the tower meant to support a removable dome.
Montreal Olympic Stadium

There are many more animals at the Biodôme, and they had some great exhibits.

An Inadvertent Pilgrimage   Leave a comment

We left Ottawa for Montreal, about a two hour drive. On a hill, we saw the dome of Saint Joseph’s Oratory, a shrine and basilica dedicated to Saint Joseph. We saw a model of it in the Museum of Civilization while in Ottawa. It is among the biggest Catholic churches in the world. We were heading downtown, but we enjoyed admiring it from the hill.

The traffic there is absolutely crazy! I’ve driven in Atlanta and Chicago, which are busy 24×7. I’ve crossed Houston east to west at rush hour. I’ve driven in Tyson’s Corner (a suburb of Washington, DC, with major shopping areas) at Christmas. They are all quiet country roads compared to Montreal. Dense traffic, and, perhaps out of necessity, the most aggressive drivers out there. You get half-a-beat to move, then they are honking or going around you. Cars will slide in wherever they have to, and I got the sense my Ohio plate made me a target. By the time we were leaving Montreal, I was getting the hang of it–the rest of the trip, I would refer to “getting Montreal on someone” when I made an aggressive move.

However, in that first hour in Montreal, I was still in a fairly polite mode. So, I wasn’t able to get over when the highway forked. We wound up making several wrong turns trying to correct. Before too long, we saw signs for the Oratory, so we thought we’d drive by. We turned into a parking lot, and discovered they were charging $5. We all wanted to get out of the car, and I didn’t want to have to explain I was a lost anglophone. I handed over a blue bill and parked.

Saint Josephs Oratory

André Bessette was a lay brother working at the Notre Dame College in Montreal. He had a hard life, and felt Saint Joseph gave him strength at that time. During his fourty years working at the gate to the college, he would meet with people and recommend they pray to Saint Joseph. People would describe how they were cured. In 1904, he started a chapel honoring the saint. He started the construction of the Oratory in 1924, with it being completed in 1939, two years after his death. In 2010, Brother André was canonized, the first Canadian saint of the twenty-first century.

It truly is an amazing building. It is 423 feet tall, and the third-largest dome of it’s type in the world (behind the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro and Saint Peter’s Basilica).
Saint Josephs Oratory, from the Garden

Inside were two sanctuaries. There was mass in the smaller one, but the larger one was open.
Main Sanctuary

Brother André’s more modest chapel is also on site, with many relics from the work he did.
Brother Andre's Chapel

We had heard of Saint Joseph’s and Brother André less than twenty-four hours prior to visiting, and it was completely unplanned. But, it was a magnificent thing to see.
Statue of Saint Joseph

Posted 2013-07-10 by Mr. Guilt in Summer Vacation 2013

Parliament Hill   Leave a comment

While in Ottawa, we spent a lot of time on Parliament Hill. Obviously, it was The Place to Be on Canada Day. However, between preparations for the celebrations, as well as being the seat of government, there was a lot to see.

The day before Canada Day, we went out to take the tour of Parliament. Unfortunately, they were sold out by the time we got there–we were told that while they open at 9, there was a line as early as 8:30. We walked around, and some of the guards were meeting the visitors. This gentleman was very nice, taking off his hat to show it to my daughter. He explained it is bade of bear skin, but has an inner frame made of bamboo.
Caitlin, Rebecca, and the Parliament Guard

We then walked around the central building. We got to see the Peace Tower, which is common up front.
Peace Tower

The library was in the back. It was quite amazing.
Library of Parliament

On July 2, I got up before my family, and walked down to get tickets. I was there at 8:25, and there was about fifteen people in line in front of me. By 9, the line looped back on itself.
Line for Parliament Hill Tickets

I got the tickets, then met my family. After a quick breakfast, it was time to watch the changing of the guard.
Field at the Changing of the Guard 2

Sheathing their Daggers

Guns Ready

Parading the Colors

Marching Out

The Parliament building is quite ornate, with carvings throughout.
Door of England

We first entered the House of Commons. It is presided over by a speaker, who is simply a member of the House (rather than the primary member of the majority party). He sits in this green chair.
House of Commons, Speaker's Chair

The majority and opposition parties sit facing each other, two-and-a-half sword lengths apart. This is the opposition side (which I could get the best picture of from my vantage). The chair leaning forward is where the opposition leader sits, opposite the majority leader (the Prime Minister).
House of Commons, Opposition

We next passed through the amazing library (no pictures, please!), then to the Senate.
Canadian Parliament--Senate Chamber

The Senate is lead by the President of the Senate (the chair in front). The chairs in back are occupied by the Queen and her consort (or, in her absence, the Governor General and spouse).
Canadian Parliament--President of the Senate and Queen's Chairs

My degree is in political science, so it was fascinating to learn a bit about the political process in Canada (though I still need a Canadian “I’m Just a Bill” to really understand the process). We had a great time at the Parliament.
Guarding the Peace Tower

Posted 2013-07-09 by Mr. Guilt in Summer Vacation 2013

Canadian Museum of Aviation and Space   1 comment

While in Ottawa, we went to the Canadian Museum of Aviation and Space. As the name implies, it is a museum dedicated to planes and spacecraft that were notable to Canada. There were several notable artifacts.

Perhaps the most noteworthy was the nose of the Avro CF-105 Arrow, a fighter that was developed in Canada in the 1950s. Had it been completed, it would have been the most advanced interceptor of its day.
CF-105 Nose

After about a year of test flights, the program was cancelled, under significant controversy. Adding insult to injury was that the prototypes and all the jigs and other equipment specific to is production were ordered destroyed. All that remains is the nose section on display at the museum behind a CF-18. Even that bit was done at a great deal of personal and professional risk to those who saved it. The Cf-105 is one of the many “what might have been” stories of aviation.
Hornet and Arrow

Under pressure from NORAD partners, the BOMARC missile was purchased instead (and also on display).

Another unique aircraft was the one the Arrow was meant to replace, the CF-100 Canuck.
CF-100 Canuck

The CF-104 is the RCAF designation of the F-104 Starfighter.

While still in service, a CF-18 (the Canadian designation of the Boing F/A-18) was on display.

This one’s unit appears to use a cougar as its mascot.
Cougar on a Hornet (1)

The cougar is also on the vertical stabilizer. Also notice the signatures on the inside of the opposite one–I’m not sure what they are, as I didn’t even notice them until I was reviewing my pictures.
Cougar on a Hornet (2)

The museum had a bit of Hadfield-mania was present in the museum. The guitar he took on his first flight was on display.
Hadfield's First Space Guitar

Over the entry hall is a Canadiar CT-114 Tutor trainer, in the colors of the Snowbirds.
Inverted Snowbird

Another was awaiting restoration.
Awaiting Restoration

While a relatively small museum, it was a great overview of Canadian aerospace history, and had several unique pieces.

Posted 2013-07-08 by Mr. Guilt in Aircraft, Summer Vacation 2013

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