Archive for Travel

The Great Canadian Road Trip II – Part 10: The Voyage Home

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 14, 2019 by itnerd

So we’ve come to the end of our second Great Canadian Road Trip. As we leave Charlottetown, I’d like to tie up some loose ends about the Hotel On Pownal. This is a good hotel that we’d recommend. They accommodated the secure storage of our bikes which aren’t exactly cheap and would not have fit in our room. And the staff were very nice and worked hard to make sure that we were comfortable.  But if I were them, They could look to improve on the breakfast front. They could offer a bit more variety in terms of what is on offer. For example, there were no pancakes or bacon on offer which is typical of most hotels that I’ve stayed at over the years. On top of that on some days seating space is at a premium with the hotel having to pull out TV trays to accommodate guests. That’s a bit lame. But other than that, this is a great place to stay.

Oh yeah, If you see this on top of your TV while staying at the Hotel On Pownal, don’t be alarmed:

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When I inquired about this, the staff said it was the IR receiver for the remote control for the TV. I investigated this by looking at the back of the TV and finding the cable box mounted on the back of the TV, and a cable running to this gizmo. Thus making their explanation highly plausible.

In terms of tech, the WiFi worked well and was generally fast enough. Thus enabling my wife and I to use our laptops and smartphones. Speaking of which, here’s how we set everything up. (Note: These pictures going forward are taken with the Nikon Coolpix P1000):

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My laptop lived on a desk with a backup drive attached to it so that I could back up the data on the laptop in case anything happened to it.

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My wife on the other hand put her laptop along with her Twelve South TimePorter on her bedside table. You’ll also see a Nomad Lightning Cable and a Orico 4 Port USB Charger which enabled her to keep her Apple Watch and iPhone 7 Plus charged. In my case, here’s what I did:

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This looks like a rats nest of cables, but let me explain. what’s going on here. I used my nightstand to charge all the lights for the bikes and both cyclocomputers. To facilitate that I used the Anker 60W 6-Port USB charger along with six Anker PowerLine Micro USB 3ft Cables. You’ll also note a clock radio that had two things going for it. First it was a bluetooth compatible and it had no sign of a Apple 30 pin dock connecter, which meant that the hotel bought this recently. Second, it had two USB ports where I plugged in my Twelve South TimePorter to charge my Apple Watch and a Native Union Lightning cable that I got as swag at a press event to charge my iPhone XS. One thing that I should note about the Apple Watch is that I only used the Urban Armor Gear Nato Strap during this trip as it could be used to ride bikes and hike which still looking good enough to go out to dinner. Though it will need a wash when we get back to Toronto. My wife on the other hand between her Nike Band and her Watch Stop Company Mesh Loop.

After packing up and checking out we made the two hour drive back up to the Confederation Bridge where we had to pay a $47.75 toll. To be clear, you don’t pay when you come into Prince Edward Island via the bridge. You only pay when you leave via the bridge.

Top Tip: There are self serve lanes where you can get in and out of the toll area quickly, and they also accept Apple Pay.

Once we were past that we were out of Prince Edward Island and back into New Brunswick. We weren’t going to stay the night in that province. Instead we were going to drive to just outside Quebec City and stay at the Holiday Inn Express Quebec Sainte-Foy which was recently renovated and highly recommended. That meant that our drive was going to be about 8 hours. But to be frank it took 10 hours because we made frequent stops along the way to refuel, take breaks and the like. But we did get to see this sort of scenery:

 

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Once we did arrive at the hotel, we were greeted with a hotel that was modern, clean, and well laid out. We were able to get our stuff along with our bikes inside in short order and relax for about an hour our so after our long drive to get there.

My wife had found a place nearby for dinner called Portofino. And though it was a challenge to get to because of major road construction, it was totally worth it as the food was outstanding. It was a great way to end this trip.

The next day after having breakfast we did the 10 hour drive back to Toronto. Some items to note about breakfast, while the Holiday Inn did serve breakfast on paper plates, they did go out of their way to recycle them. Plus they had a very good selection of food. Both of this made breakfast a very enjoyable experience.

Again, we made a number of stops for gas, breaks and the like along the way which made it 10 hours. But at the end of it it was nice to be in our own beds after being on the road for almost two weeks. Having said that, my wife and I were already talking about our next trip. We’re talking about doing some cycling in Quebec as that province is known for that sort of thing. Or doing this cycling event in Prince Edward Island next year. Or taking a trip to the United Kingdom for some cycling as it will likely be a lot cheaper to do so because of Brexit. Whatever we decide to do, you can be sure that we’ll document it here for you.

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The Great Canadian Road Trip II – Part 9: The East Point Ride

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 13, 2019 by itnerd

Today was our final day to ride in Prince Edward Island. This time we are driving out to the East Point of Prince Edward Island for a 60KM bike ride. The East Point is just over an hour away from Charlottetown. However there was a heat warning that pushed the temperatures to about 30 degrees celsius. As a result we decided to cut the ride to 50KM. The ride took us from the East Point Lighthouse, along some roads with seaside and farms, and back to the lighthouse. Here’s what that looked like.

 

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And here’s the result of our ride:

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After a brief break to rehydrate, we then had a look at the East Point Lighthouse. (Note: All photos from this point are taken with the Nikon Coolpix P1000):

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You’ll notice that our bikes are parked out front of the lighthouse. And if you look closely, you’ll notice that I have switched from my 55mm deep section aero wheels for lightweight 30mm climbing wheels. The reason I did this was that on our last ride, the cross winds made the bike difficult to control at times. Thus seeing as we were going to be close to the seashore which means that the winds were likely to be high, it would be in my best interest to have wheels that made my bike easy to control.

 

The cost  to go up to the top of the lighthouse is $6.50 and it is well worth doing. Here’s what you’ll see:

 

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With the lighthouse done and dusted, we made our way back to Charlottetown. After visiting happy hour, we went to Merchantman which my wife really wanted to go to after trying their oysters. This restaurant had the best food that we’ve had here in Prince Edward Island. We also got a lot of it. Both my wife and I would recommend this place without hesitation.

Tomorrow we leave for Quebec City which is our first stop of our trip back to Toronto. I’ll also be wrapping up our stay at the Hotel On Pownal with our thoughts on staying here. Stay turned for that.

 

The Great Canadian Road Trip II – Part 8: The Artisan Tour

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 12, 2019 by itnerd

This day’s post is being done by wife because she’s really into the artisans of PEI. Here’s her report of the day’s activities. (Note: All photos are taken with the Nikon Coolpix P1000):

We could not leave PEI a second time without visiting some of the local artists. Today we headed off to explore of some PEI artisans. We started our day visiting Suzanne Scott of Village Pottery in New London, PEI and while the Studio tours will resume in September we were treated to a chance meeting of Suzanne Scott herself. She provided us with a personalized tour of her studio downstairs where we learned that it takes anywhere from 6 – 8 months to develop a new glaze. Knowing that their Etsy store is currently on hold I took the opportunity to purchase some beautiful pieces from their Celtic shore line. The gallery on the 2nd floor is open to visitors. Visitors can also pop in to Pottery’s Parlour next door for an ice cream. 

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On our next stop was the Bottle Houses in Cap Egmont, PEI. Take your time to take in everything from the moment you enter the property. Edouard Arsenault, an artist who combined his construction skills with his design dream was ahead of his time before recycling of bottles was available. Starting in the 70’s Edouard started the painstaking process of collecting, cleaning and removing the labels of over 12,000 bottles. Then starting the spring of 1980 at the age of 66 he started construction of his first bottle house. As you walk through the beautiful whimsical bottle houses you notice the riot of colours all around you in the gardens. The gift shop offers some unique decorative garden items for you to purchase.

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We were inspired to taking a side trip to the Cape Ergmont Lighthouse after seeing a small replica of it in Bottle Houses and learning that Edouard was the last resident lighthouse keeper. Note that the Cape Ergmont is not listed as a tourist lighthouse but when we did learn that it was approximately 2 km from the Bottle Houses property we couldn’t resist. The beauty of the landscape takes your breath away and was well worth the trek. Note that you have to do some off-roading to get there.

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As soon as we arrived at the PEI Preserve Company we knew that judging by the tour buses in the parking lot that it would be packed with visitors. This popular destination should be a must see on your list. Give yourself time to not only sample the amazingly tasty preserves but stroll through the beautiful Garden of Hope by the river. 

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During our visit to the PEI Preserve Company we once again got an alert from our  Belkin NetCam HD+ units and once again a maintenance person was in our unit doing some emergency plumbing work. Something that we had to again confirm with the management company while I watched them work. Good thing that my wife and I have great data plans with TELUS. And once again they failed to turn off the bathroom lights when they were done.

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Speaking of TELUS, I will note that there were a few areas where there was no cell service in some parts of Prince Edward Island. But we would be in and out of those areas in a few minutes which meant that coverage was generally good.

By the time we got back to Charlottetown, it was happy hour at the hotel. My wife ate a ton of oysters from a place called Merchantman while I had a beer. Based on what she felt about the oysters, I’m pretty sure that we’re going there before we leave. From there, we went to Peaks Quay which had average food at best. But it had a great view of the Charlottetown historic waterfront.

Tomorrow, we’re going on our last bike ride around the East Point which also has a lighthouse in the area. Stay tuned to see how that goes.

The Great Canadian Road Trip II – Part 7: The Three Hour Tour

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 11, 2019 by itnerd

Today my wife and I decided to take a boat tour in an attempt to see whales via a company called Wicked Sea Adventures. Now, I’ll say up front that any whale watching tour cannot possibly guarantee that you will see whales. So if you come across a tour that guarantees whales, run in the other direction.

Having said that, we did not see whales. However we did still have a good time. Here’s why.

First of all, finding Wicked Sea Adventures was a bit of a challenge. They’re located an hours and a bit outside of Charlottetown, and they give you the address of a local cafe with the intention that you’ll see the sign for Wicked Sea Adventures across the street. Once you park next to a roped off area, you walk down to the dock area which looks like something out of a tourism ad (Note: All pictures in this post were shot with the Nikon Coolpix P1000):

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You’re welcomed on the boat which holds no more than 12 passengers and 2 crew and you go through all the safety related items. Then you head out.

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On the way out of port, you’ll see the East Point Lighthouse. We’ll be heading there in the coming days not only to see the lighthouse, but we’ll be riding our bikes in the area.

So after our captain tried and failed to find any whales (though I will note that he did see some dolphins but they disappeared before we could snap any photos), he had us try some fishing:

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Now while most passengers who tried a hand at fishing got mackerel of some sort, I got two of these:

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This is apparently a Scuplin which is a bottom feeder. It wasn’t good for what was to come next so both of them were tossed back into the ocean.

So what was come next? Well the fish that were useful were chopped up and once we were in an area with Seagulls and Gannets, this happened (Note: This video was shot on the Nikon Coolpix P1000 in 4K):

It was amazing to see the Gannets dive from 20 or 30 feet above the boat into the water to get the chopped up fish. This was the highlight of the boat tour which lasted just over three hours.

After we returned to port we took a short drive to Souris where we saw the lighthouse not too long ago so that my wife could get some food. Specifically to this place:

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My wife grabbed a lobster roll and she said it was outstanding. But take that for what it is worth as she’s said all the seafood that she’s had was outstanding. From there, we made the drive back to Charlottetown to our hotel. And next up was dinner for yours truly. We went to John Brown’s on Victoria Row. After my wife had a Cesar Salad and I had fish and chips, we looked around the area:

DSCN0562.JPGThere was a band playing outside. In fact, in a number of areas in Charlottetown have live music near various places to eat. One thing to note that this was the latest place where I tried to have a local brew and it was out of stock. I’ve never seen a place where beer was out of stock.

Next up for us tomorrow is some sort of tour that my wife wants to do that looks at various artisans on the island. She’s going to be reporting on that tomorrow so stay tuned.

The Great Canadian Road Trip II – Part 6: The Farm And Cottage Ride

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 10, 2019 by itnerd

Today was a ride day. But before we went out for a ride, we did laundry. The Hotel On Pownal has laundry facilities on site complete with washing detergent. We leveraged that to clean some of our clothes so that we wouldn’t risk running out. After that, we got ready for our ride. Today’s ride was one I called the “Farm and Cottage Ride” as it started from the hotel, rode through farmland, then into cottage country before returning to the hotel. Total distance: 53.5KM. Here’s some visuals of what I mean by “Farm and Cottage” starting with the farm:

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And here’s a couple of cottages:

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Two things made this ride challenging. One was the heat. According to what my cyclocomputer reported, it started out being 26 degrees celsius, but got as high as 34 degrees. That’s hot and we ran through two bottles of water and electrolytes each by the end of the ride. And later at dinner my wife and I were both drinking water like were were in a desert. The second thing that was challenging was the wind. Crosswinds and deep section carbon wheels like these ones don’t mix. And the crosswinds made it sometimes difficult to control the bike as the the wind will make the front end unstable and difficult to keep straight. You can be sure that on our next ride which is by the seashore that I will be breaking out my 30mm carbon wheels that are less likely to be affected by crosswinds.

Here’s the numbers that I recorded at the end of the ride on Strava:

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Strava isn’t joking when it says it was harder than my usual effort. My wife and I were both drained at the end of it. But not drained enough to walk out to dinner at the Casa Mia Cafe. It had a great mix of food which my wife took advantage of to order an Arugula Pear Salad and Grilled Scallops. I just went with fish and chips and as if to illustrate how hot it was, I only had one beer because I was drinking so much water.

Tomorrow, my wife made arrangements to go whale watching. I am hoping for some great pictures that I can share with you. Stay tuned to see how well we do.

The Great Canadian Road Trip II – Part 5: Lighthouses, Lighthouses, & More Lighthouses

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 9, 2019 by itnerd

Today was an interesting day as my wife and I decided to see something that Prince Edward Island is known for. Lighthouses. We managed to pick out three of them in the southern half of the island and see how things go from there.

The first stop on our lighthouse tour was the Point Prim lighthouse which was recommended to us by a friend as it had the best food. More on that later. It was an hour drive from Charlottetown and let me show you the lighthouse from bottom to top (Note: All pictures in the post are taken with the Nikon Coolpix P1000):

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After a lobster roll and some chowder, we were off to our next stop which was the Cape Bear Lighthouse and Marconi Station which was about an hour away. Here’s a look at that lighthouse from bottom to top:

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This lighthouse is best known for being the first Marconi Station to receive the first distress signal in Canada from the Titanic as it was sinking off the coast of Newfoundland. Keep in mind that when this was happening, Newfoundland was not part of Canada.

Our final stop was the Souris Lighthouse Souris Lighthouse which was hour beyond the Cape Bear Lighthouse. like the first two lighthouses, I will show you pictures from bottom to top:

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Some notes about all the lighthouses. All of them either have a fee of $5 per person, or require a donation to go to the top of the lighthouse. I would recommend going to the top as they have quite the views. Just be warned that they have very steep climbs to the top in very tight spaces. Thus you need to watch your head.

On our way back to Charlottetown we spotted this:

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This is the Shanty Stay in Souris. The idea is that you get one of these small shacks which has a shower a bed and not much else for short term stays. Souris is a ferry port so you could stay here overnight and take the ferry the next day. Plus it’s close to restaurants in Souris and it has WiFi everywhere. My wife made a note of this place as I am assuming that she wants to stay here on a future vacation.

Once we were back in Charlottetown, we went out to have dinner as usual. We just missed happy hour. But we will have other opportunities for free booze. Before going to dinner, I took the opportunity to snap a few pictures of the downtown.

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There’s a fire station next to our hotel with a vintage fire truck.

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The Confederation Center For The Performing Arts is a five minute walk from our hotel.

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Across from that is Cows which is famous for its ice cream.

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Anne Of Green Gables is everywhere on Prince Edward Island. Case in point is this chocolate shop.

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Piatto Pizza was our destination for Dinner. It was insanely popular. But we got in within 15 minutes.

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They hand make all their pizzas and bake them in a wood oven. And they are delicious! My wife and I highly recommend this place.

After dinner we walked back to the hotel. Here’s some random shots of the downtown at night:

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Finally, here’s a shot of our hotel:

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Tomorrow is a day for another bike ride. It’s also going to be a hot day so that may not be a good thing. But we will see as we came here to ride as well as sightsee. Tune in to see how things work out.

 

 

 

The Great Canadian Road Trip II – Part 4: An Ice Cream Ride

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 8, 2019 by itnerd

Today in Charlottetown, it was time to do a short ride of about 45K. The idea was to take a short ride of average difficulty just to loosen up the legs. Plus to add to the fun, we’re planning a stop at an ice cream shop before returning to the hotel.

Top Tip: Bike helmets are mandatory in Prince Edward Island as per this. But to be frank, every cyclist everywhere on planet Earth should be wearing a helmet regardless of whether the law requires it or not. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

To assist with our rides, we’ve employed a new piece of tech. Replacing our Garmin Edge 520 cyclocomputers that we’ve been using is the brand new Garmin Edge 830 cyclocomputer. I’ll be writing a detailed review in the next little bit, but they key features that we’re leveraging is the touchscreen interface and the better navigation capabilities. Plus there’s better fitness metrics that are available to help us measure our level of fitness.

Now before we left Toronto, we created our routes using the Garmin Connect website which you get access to when you buy a Garmin cyclocomputer. We leveraged the fact that Garmin offers the ability to pick a start point and a destination and the website will route you according to what routes are popular in the area. Once we had the route created, we downloaded them to the cyclocomputers. However we had two issues with the Garmin Connect website:

  1. We specified road riding. But as you will see, it routed us partially onto gravel.
  2. It was completely unable to get the amount of elevation gain correct. So while we were expecting not a l lot of elevation gain, AKA climbing, we ended up climbing almost 900 feet which isn’t a big deal if one was aware that they were going to do that before the ride started.

Clearly Garmin has some bugs to work out with this website.

Shortly after noon, we rolled out from the hotel which was the start and end point for most of the routes that we created. After riding on the streets of Charlottetown, we were routed on to the Charlottetown Cycleway which is part of the Confederation Trail. It’s a hard packed fine gravel trail that is ridable by gravel bikes, mountain bikes, and experienced road riders. We’re the latter and most of the first 10K covered routes that look like this as navigated by my wife:

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Now normally I would not recommend gravel to road cyclists, but this route is clearly ridable. At least in the sections that we rode. We then ended up on paved roads that were rolling hills for the next 10K or so. At the end, we ended up here:

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This is Deckers Dairy Bar which is on Brackey Point Road near the Prince Edward Island National Park. We used this as our turn around point and spent 30 minutes having ice cream before returning to the hotel. By the end of the ride back at or hotel, here’s what we did via Strava:

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It was a good ride and it got our feet wet in terms of riding in Prince Edward Island.

After a quick shower, we took part in Happy Hour in the hotel. While my wife had a white wine, I had a Island Red from Gahan House Breweries. I seem to be going through their entire suite of offerings. When it is in stock as this was a beer that I wanted yesterday, but was out of stock at the restaurant that we were out. That means that I will have to buy some to take home with us.

We then went out to dinner to the aforementioned Gahan House pub/resturant which was a six minute walk from the hotel. While eating fish and chips, I had the opportunity to sample their alcoholic root beer and their Iron Bridge Brown Ale. Both of which were very good, For my wife’s part, she had oysters and a spinach salad. Which she said was outstanding.

Our plans are not all that clear at the moment. But once we figure it out, we’ll post what we do here. So stay tuned.