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Every time I go to a new city, the spirit of adventure and discovery heightens my energy level and 6:10 am I was already awake. I read my guidebook for a while and then doze off again, only to be awakened by a major thunderstorm that drenched the city with a downpour. So I got up and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and by 9:30 or so things had calmed down again, just in time for my explorations of the city. The Old Montreal Ghost Tour last night had already given me a bit of an...

Hello From Montreal: Exploring Montreal's History

Hello From Montreal: Exploring MontrealEvery time I go to a new city, the spirit of adventure and discovery heightens my energy level and 6:10 am I was already awake. I read my guidebook for a while and then doze off again, only to be awakened by a major thunderstorm that drenched the city with a downpour. So I got up and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and by 9:30 or so things had calmed down again, just in time for my explorations of the city. The Old Montreal Ghost Tour last night had already given me a bit of an overview of the old historic centre of Montreal and introduced me to some interesting characters.Five minutes from my hotel is the Place dArmes, one of Montreals most famous squares. The old part of the city was still quiet, and I enjoyed a peacefull stroll through the cobble-stoned streets. I headed into one of Montreals Tourist Information Office, located right at the southwest corner of Rue Notre Dame and Place Jacques Cartier to stock up on maps and ask various questions of the helpful staff.Old Montreal in the morning has such a European feel to it, with the little cafs just setting up shop and local residents getting ready to walk to work. The calm relaxed atmosphere contrasts quite sharply with the usual frenetic hustle and bustle that we are so used to in our North American metropolitan cities.After a relaxing walk that allowed me to admire the architecture and the narrow streets and alleyways I returned to Place dArmes where my Old Montreal Walking Tour, provided by licensed tour guides from Guidatour, would be starting at 11:00 am. The meeting place was just outside the Notre-Dame Cathedral and our two tour leaders were already waiting. Our English-speaking group would be handled by Louis while the French-speaking group was entrusted to another guide, Bruno.Eleven of us tourists congregated around Louis and in his charming French accented yet perfect English he started to educate us about the history and architecture of Old Montreal, adding a dose of subtle humour. Naturally our tour started with the Basilica of Notre Dame, probably Montreals most visited building. Louis took us inside the basilica and we discovered that the C$15 admission ticket for the walking tour actually covers the $4 that the Basilica charges for admission.The Basilica of Notre Dame is a magnificent Gothic revival church, designed ironically by the Protestant Irish-American architect James ODonnell who had also designed churches in New York City, and built between 1824 and 1829. In addition to a stunning Gothic revival exterior, Notre Dame features a dramatic interior, with a deep blue ceiling that is decorated with golden stars. It is one of the most unusual churches I have seen and its visual impact is stunning.Louis explained to us that for about Can$2000 you can get married in this church, but obviously there is a waiting list of at least two years. Celebrities like Quebecois singer Celine Dion and hockey great Mario Lemieux got married here. Notre-Dame Basilica was also the location of former prime minister Pierre Elliot Trudeaus funeral, Canada's most well-known prime minister. Louis then took us through the side chapel out into the wedding chapel, officially called La Chapelle Notre-Dame du Sacr-Coeur which unfortunately was seriously damaged in a fire in 1978. Much of the woodwork has been reconstructed in a more modern style, but the chapel is still an impressive space.After our first introduction to Montreal architecture we walked westwards just a few steps on Rue Notre-Dame and had a look at Montreals oldest building: the Old Seminary or Vieux Sminaire Saint-Sulpice. Built in 1683 by Sulpician priests, this building used to be a manor from which the priests managed their vast land holdings. During the early years of Montreals history, the towns citizens were exposed to frequent attacks by the Iroquois, and the Old Seminary represented a refuge in a place that was still mostly wilderness. The characteristic public clock was installed in 1701 and is among the oldest such timekeepers in all of North America.We then stopped to admire Place dArmes, right in front of the Basilica, so called because it used to be a location for military manoeuvres as well as for religious processions. Place dArmes is a veritable collection of architectural history. The New York Insurance building, dating back to 1888, was the first building to install the newly invented elevator, at the time making it the highest building in all of Montreal. The Hotel Place dArmes just north, originally five stories high, actually had three stories added once the building was retrofitted with an elevator.The Aldred Building is a fine example of Art Deco skyscraper architecture and for many years it was the highest building in Montreal. Louis quite appropriately referred to the stepped back skysraper design as the wedding cake architectural style. The centre of Place dArmes is watched over by a statue of Paul de Chomedey, Sieur de Maissoneuve, who founded Montreal in 1642.The north end of Place dArmes holds another architectural marvel: the Bank of Montreal building. Founded in 1817 as the first bank in Canada, the Bank of Montreal decided to build an impressive headquarters in 1847 and created a neoclassical exterior modeled after the Roman Pantheon. The interior was completely redesigned in 1904 to 1905 by the famous New York architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White with a magnificent banking hall modeled after a Roman basilica.Heading west of St. James Street (or rue St-Jacques), Louis explained that this used to be Canadas business centre during the 19th century. Many Canadian banks had their headquarters here until they were moved into downtown Montreal or later to Toronto. Railway and shipping companies also had their head offices here, many of them founded by immigrants from Scotland.The architectural mix on rue St-Jacques is impressive and Louis pointed out one example that has recently been renovated and reincarnated as the extremely upscale St. James Hotel. This trendy boutique hotel offers a penthouse suite that can be rented for around $5000 a night (in low season) and it is a favourite hangout of celebrities. To mention just one example, Madonna just stayed at the St. James recently at the end of June during her Montreal concert stop.Another truly impressive architectural jewel came into view: the former head office of the Royal Bank, whose construction began in 1928 according to designs by famous New York skyscrapers experts York and Sawyer. For a long time this building was the largest in the British Empire. The design is influenced by a Florentine palazzo and the impressive high ceilings of the Great Hall feature the coats of arms of eight of Canadas ten provinces.Unfortunately no photography was allowed in either the Bank of Montreal or the Royal Bank buildings, but they are astounding examples of architectural styles of different eras. Louis then took us through the narrow streets of Old Montreal towards the citys waterfront and the birthplace of the city. As a major port town and shipping centre, many of the buildings in Old Montreal were warehouse buildings featuring large windows to let in a lot of natural daylight. This was to reduce the risk of fire that would have been caused by artificial lighting at the time, putting at risk the precious cargo that these buildings were storing.I kept asking Louis numerous questions about the architecture and social history of Montreal. His knowledge of architecture was impressive, and to compare architectural styles, he was referencing numerous other well-known buildings in other cities such as New York City, Toronto, Boston and Chicago. He mentioned that a lot of historic buildings were torn down in Montreal during the 1960s as in so many other North American cities, but fortunately the architectural preservation movement gained strength and today all of Old Montreal is protected.Old Montreal languished for a number of decades since most of the action had moved downtown, but in the last fourty years Vieux Montral has experienced a revival that started with the major international event of Expo 67. Today, many of these former warehouse buildings have been converted into upscale condos and Louis informed me that even a small studio apartment will probably fetch a price tag of at least half a million dollars. Old Montreal has made a successful transition from a former commercial district to a vibrant tourism, entertainment and residential area.Close to the waterfront we arrived at Place dYouville, an elongated public space that is located on the former riverbed of the Rivire Saint-Pierre that was canalized in the 1830s and eventually covered over and dried out completely. The History Centre of Montreal is a former fire station and a rare example of Flemish architecture in Quebec.Just a few steps east is Montreals Museum of Archeology and History at Pointe--Callire. It is very rare to know exactly where a city was founded, but Montrealers know exactly where their city first came into being: on a narrow strip of land between the St. Lawrence and the Saint-Pierre River. Right there the first settlers built Fort Ville-Marie, using earth and wooden posts. As a matter of fact, on May 17, 1642, Father Vimont held a mass celebrating the founding of Montral, attended by Sieur de Maisonneuve, Jeanne Mance and some of the other founding colonists.Today, the museum consists of six buildings and introduces visitors to the citys history in the most innovative ways. There is even an archeological dig here, unearthing further knowledge about the citys history. Various festivals including a multicultural festival and a historic market weekend are also held a Pointe--Callire.Our route then took us back up to Notre Dame Street. The former Palais de Justice, built between 1849 and 1856, is a fine example of Canadian neoclassicism. Today the building houses the Quebec Court of Appeal. Across the street is the Ernst Cormier Building, opened in 1926 and named after the famous architect that also designed the main pavillon of the Universit de Montreal as well as the doors of the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.Our tour through Old Montreal appropriately came to an end at Place Jacques-Cartier, the gently sloping grandest public space of Old Montreal. Numerous restaurants with outdoor terraces line both sides of the square and the centre holds a variety of wooden stalls selling flowers, artwork and souvenirs. The north end of the square is overlooked by a statue of Admiral Horatio Nelson, who curiously faces away from Montreals port area. The statue is a testimony to the power of the merchants of British descent who wished to commemorate the British defeat of the French and Spanish fleet in the Battle of Trafalgar.The northeast end of Place Jacques Cartier is the location of Montreals City Hall, built in the Second Empire Style and opened in 1878. A fire destroyed the roof and the interior of the building in 1922 and the roof was reconstructed in 1926 along the lines of the city hall in Tours, France. Today, Montreals City Hall is still located in this historic building.Place Jacques-Cartier was a fitting place to end our tour of Old Montreal and everyone in the crowd thanked Louis profusely for sharing his local insight and knowledge. By this time it was almost 1 pm, and my stomach was telling me what it was time for: lunch at the Caf du Chateau.

Hello From Ottawa: My Packed Itinerary For My 2-day Getaway To Canada's Capital

Hello From Ottawa: My Packed Itinerary For My 2-day Getaway To Canada

For a while my friend Theresa and I had been planning to go back to Ottawa and experience "Winterlude", Ottawa's winter festival. About three years ago we went to Ottawa, only to be rained out . Our main activity had fallen through: skating on the Rideau Canal, and even the ice sculptures had melted.But that didn't deter us. So this past Friday we got in the car and after a pleasant 4.5 hour drive we arrived in Ottawa. After documenting my first impressions, we checked into the Lord Elgin Hotel, a historic landmark right in the heart of Ottawa.Friday evening we explored one of Ottawa's main entertainment areas: the ByWard Market and we had a fabulous dinner at Fat Tuesdays, complete with live music and delicious Cajun food.Saturday morning I got up early and explored the local area and took many photos in and around Parliament Hill. Then we got ready to explore one of Ottawa's main winter attractions: the "Rideau Canal" Skateway, the world's longest natural ice skating surface. The day was absolutely perfect and we were gliding effortlessly down the ice to our next destination: the 26th Annual Bedzz Races on Dow's Lake.The bed race is a fabulous charity event and it's lots of fun for the audience, the participants and the organizers alike. Then I had to race off and see what else was going on at Confederation Park, one of the main Winterlude sites.After a day full of physical exercise we discovered a historic local pub: Darcy McGee's on Sparks Street, Ottawa's pedestrian mall, and I had a chance to see how a perfect Guiness is poured, including the obligatory foam shamrock.On Sunday morning I went to the Canadian War Museum, a fabulous new multi-media museum by the banks of the Ottawa River, and I also had a chance to visit a special exhibition called "Weapons of Mass Dissemination - the Propaganda of War". I wished I had had more time to spend here.My next and final stop in Ottawa was a visit to the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, a unique museum housed in a former railroad tunnel. There I focussed on an exhibition by Sunil Gupta, who was born in India and moved to Montreal at age 15. Gupta explores issues of personal, sexual and cultural identity, and his highly personal images left a deep impact.This time I didn't have time for some of Ottawa's other main attractions, such as the National Gallery or the Canadian Museum of Civilization, but I am certainly hoping to catch those next time when I go to Ottawa, maybe even this coming May, for Ottawa's famous Tulip Festival.

Camping Cool Vacations!

Camping Cool Vacations!

For those who never have gone camping, you will find that this is something that you will have to do. There is nothing that you will find that is like the adventures of camping. There are a lot of people who will go on tours and travel an area with an expert camper, but you will also find that camping to someone new is a great way to start thinking about the things that arent seen. Once you go on a camping trip, you will be able to think about nature and how to protect and preserve the beautiful sites that you will see while camping. You may have to some time looking through your gear. There are some things that may crawl inside your sleeping bag, but you will also wan to take some time to look a the gear each time before use so that you can make sure that you are safe. Things like the wind and water can destroy a lot of your equipment so you will want to do regular checks. However, keep in mind that you dont have to sleep in a tent or in a sleeping bag. You may be able to stay in your car and you may even prepare to be outdoors, but spend your nights in the motel. There are large SUV vehicles that will allow you to sleep two people in comfortably. You will be able to fold down the seats and you will be able to use your car to give you some protection. You will find that your SUV will help you to save a lot of money that you would have to put into a tank of gas for an RV. You will also want to take some time and research things like stoves and lamps. You will be able to cook outside and make the trip even better. You will also not want to forget the flashlights for times where you will be going off and venturing away from your car. Depending on some of the options that you have, you may even be able to get internet and cell phone accesses. Its always good to have a GPS unit with you so that you can avoid getting lost.

Romantic City Guide: Sacramento

Romantic City Guide: Sacramento

Sacramento is the capital of the state of California, but surprisingly, many areas in the region retain that old small town charm. It is a great city for couples to visit, especially those who are more interested in the history of the area, but there are activities for those who may not be into going to museums and historical places.Old Sacramento is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area. The area looks like a section of the city stuck in the 1800s, and although there are a few modern businesses in the area, Old Sacramento is more of a hotspot among tourists rather than a residential or commercial area. There are several museums and quaint shops in the area, as well as a few restaurants. The most visited part of Old Sacramento is the California State Railroad Museum, full of artifacts and trains, many of which are intact from the time they were last used. (Travel to California became much easier and quicker with the introduction of the Steam Engine.)The city of Sacramento is also home to many festivals that many people come from all over the world to attend. The Traditional Jazz Music Festival is held annually over the Memorial Day Weekend and the California State Fair is one of the most popular events of its kind in the world. Held annually for the last 152 years, the California State Fair draws in more than a million visitors each year and is always filled with fun exhibits and entertaining performances.As far as dining is concerned, Mortons Steakhouse is a wonderful upscale restaurant to spend the night at, as is the Biba Ristorante Italiano, which has won the Best Restaurant in Sacramento award multiple times. If you are in the mood for Chinese, P.F. Chang's China Bistro is always a favorite spot among couples.Sacramento is a city that is buzzing with excitement and there is plenty to do and see in the wonderful city.

When To Get Cheap Deals To Seychelles

Everyone thinks of the Seychelles as a winter holiday destination, and Seychelle Island Vacations to one of the increasing number of Seychelles Five Stars Hotels tend to be taken between November and March.This is the time of the greatest Seychelles rain fall with the heaviest rain being December through to February. Its therefore a little strange that these are the popular holiday months when the weather isnt really ideal. I still remember arriving on Praslin almost twenty five years ago in early February to be greeted by grey skies, and a torrential downpour, and it was quite depressing, but that is the price you pay for lush green foliage. I should add that the rain soon stopped, and the sun came out, then it rained only in the early evening every day!!One has to assume that people suffer the very long flight because what they get is a lot better than a European winter, but there are other times to consider a Seychelles island vacation.The slight problem is that summer isnt perfect either because the tropical trade wind blows from the south east, and this means you rough seas, probably no swimming off the beach, and poor old holidaymaker who has a boat transfer!!In addition the snorkelling in the Seychelles is normally brilliant but because of the rough seas you cant see anything at all.If you want to know more about other Indian Ocean Hideaways, and the Seychelles then click on http://www.worldwidevacationspots.com/categories/Indian-Ocean-Hideways/In my opinion if you want the best of all worlds, visit the Seychelles in April or May. If you can avoid the Easter break then you have a great chance of getting a cheap deal to the Seychelles with savings of several hundred Pounds Sterling. The sea is calm, the temperature is about right, and the colours are at their best as the rainy season has only just finished.So thats it, for the best deals, the best weather, and the best temperature, visit the Seychelles in April May, missing Easter if you can

Rafting On The New River In West Virginia - A Great Vacation And Travel Destination

Now, lets talk about a great vacation for an adventure lover. Anyone who loves to have a good time in the great outdoors would really love to raft the New River in Fayetteville, West Virginia. There are many other activities like rock climbing, bungee jumping, camping, hiking, and more in and around the area, but whitewater rafting is one of the most popular.The New and Gauley Rivers really are big and powerful, sometimes more powerful than others, and each have their own benefits and drawbacks for rafters. There are certain times of the year when the rivers are calmer than others and other times when the rafting is downright dangerous. Knowing when these seasons are and your rafting skill level is important to determine when to schedule your vacation. Also, the age of all rafters should be taken into consideration as well. There are rafting experiences that are mild, exciting, world class, and extreme. The minimum age for the mild rafting is six years, 12 years for the exciting, 16 years for the world class, and 18 years for the extreme rafting.There is rafting all year round, but clothing requirements are very different depending on the weather. In the winter wetsuits should be worn, the summer a t-shirt or bathing suit is fine, and the spring and fall you should wear synthetic fabrics and wool socks to keep your feet warm. Dont wear cotton if its cold because it will make you colder. Remember that no matter whether it is raining or the sun is shining rafting will go on. You will get wet anyway so it doesnt matter! Never take anything with you rafting that cant get wet, because it will for sure!Prices for rafting the New and Gauley Rivers depends on when you raft. Weekday prices are cheaper than weekends and certain seasons, as well as rivers, are more expensive than others. Rafting trips come with all necessary gear, although your clothes, shoes, sunglasses, sunscreen, and hats are your own responsibility. Package trips that include showers, cabins, camping, and breakfast may also be purchased.The best time to go if you dont like being cold is during the summer months. Of course, if you really like a challenge then you might like the fall or spring when the rapids are bigger and faster and provide a more challenging trip. It really is up to you! One thing is for sure and that is when you raft the New or Gauley Rivers, or both, you will have an experience of a lifetime.There is a website that has great information on USA Vacations and Unique Travel Spots Listed State By State and Season, the website is called: Seasonal Vacation Spots, and can be found at this url:http://www.seasonalvacationspots.comBy Robert W. BenjaminCopyright 2007 You may publish this article in your ezine, newsletter, or on your web site as long as it is reprinted in its entirety and without modification except for formatting needs or grammar corrections.

Summary

Every time I go to a new city, the spirit of adventure and discovery heightens my energy level and 6:10 am I was already awake. I read my guidebook for a while and then doze off again, only to be awakened by a major thunderstorm that drenched the city with a downpour. So I got up and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and by 9:30 or so things had calmed down again, just in time for my explorations of the city. The Old Montreal Ghost Tour last night had already given me a bit of an...