Archive for Travel

The Great Canadian Road Trip II – Part 3: Prince Edward Island National Park

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 7, 2019 by itnerd

After getting a good night’s sleep, my wife and I decided to pay a visit to Prince Edward Island National Park as it had a lot to see, and it was only 30 minutes away from our hotel. So after a quick drive, we drove into the park. It cost us $16 CDN for a day pass which allowed us to go anywhere in the park. Once there we went to a couple of beaches. Starting with this one which had a lighthouse (Note: All pictures in the post are taken with the Nikon Coolpix P1000):

 

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Then we went on the beaches themselves which had a bit of red to them. Red sand beaches are what Prince Edward Island is known for:

 

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We then went to the second beach that we wanted to see. But during that walk, I got an alert on our smartphones that someone was in our Condo. Seeing as we had been robbed before, that was an immediate concern. So while my wife dialed the building management, I leveraged the fact that the we owned Belkin NetCam HD+ units which had not only a speaker but a microphone to speak to whomever in our unit. Something that clearly startled him. It turned out to be a maintenance person who was there to do some emergency plumbing work. Something that my wife confirmed with the building management. But I did spend some time watching him on my phone from the air conditioned comfort of our SUV to make sure that he was on the up and up. When the guy was done he left the light on in the bathroom. Which means that it will be on for the next week and a half.

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With that out of the way we went to back to walking on the beach:

 

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And then we took another short drive to do some hiking on a trail that is meant for both hikers and mountain bikers as the latter get some obstacles to have fun on while they do this 3.5 KM trail.

Top Tip: Bring bug spray as we didn’t and got several bites along the way. And we sprinted the last kilometer and a half because they were so aggressive.

 

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Don’t get me wrong. The hike was scenic and if you have bug spray you will really enjoy it as the pictures above don’t do it justice.

After getting chomped on by bugs, we returned to our hotel room to shower and great ready for dinner. But before we went to dinner, we stopped off at the hotel’s happy hour. My wife had some chowder which she thought was fantastic along with a Blueberry Ale, and I just had a Bench Chair Lager. Both made by the Gahan House which we think we’ll be visiting while we are here as they are a 10 minute walk from the hotel. Then we went to dinner at Row House Steak And Lobster. I did fish and chips with a Sir John A’s Honey Wheat Ale by Gahan House. While my wife had a lobster dinner. The Sir John A’s Honey Wheat Ale was my second choice as their Red was out of stock. That’s the second day in a row a beer that I wanted was out of stock.

Tomorrow we’ll be going out for a 45KM ride just to stretch the legs and see what cycling is like on the roads of Prince Edward Island. Stay tuned to see how that goes.

The Great Canadian Road Trip II – Part 2: Edmundston NB To Charlottetown Prince Edward Island

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 6, 2019 by itnerd

Today was supposed to be an easy drive to Prince Edward Island and our final destination which was Charlottetown. But it didn’t start out that way because of my laser focus to get to Prince Edward Island. In short, I was so focused on getting out of Edmundston that I forgot to stop at the coffee shop down the street from the hotel that we stayed at the previous night. Instead, I simply used Apple Maps which is part of Apple CarPlay to route us to Prince Edward Island.

Top Tip: If you have Apple CarPlay and an iPhone, you can enter your destinations as appointments with a specific check in time as long as you enter an address with a postal code. That will allow your iPhone to tell you when you should leave based on the current traffic conditions, and it allows you too easily select the destination in Apple Maps within Apple CarPlay.

I’ll let my wife tell you what happened next:

At the start of Tuesday morning as we were starting our drive to Charlottetown my husband was a bit grumpy and jittery for a good cup of java beyond the one that we had just past the one in Edmonston. My husband hit the coffee icon on Apply CarPlay and started to head out to the first listing that popped up called Uptown Bakery in Andover.  I did a quick look up on my phone and called the business phone number and made a determination that the listing was outdated and it looks like it was out of business.  Then before my husband could go on another wild goose chase I searched and found a place called the Daily Dose Coffee and Tea House.  Two minutes later we were en-route to the Daily Dose. (Note: All pictures in the post are taken with the Nikon Coolpix P1000): 

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This is a lovely gem of a place.  It’s a cozy place that features artwork from local artists that you can purchase. This is best latte to be found between Edmonston and Charlottetown. Just for the record there are a few good coffee options in Edmonston but we had already left. And according to my Starbucks app and there are Starbucks in Dieppe, St John and Fredericton. 

I tried one of their Instagram worthy cherry hand pies and they taste as good as it looks.  Even though we were needed to start our drive we took time to enjoy the waterfront view. 

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For those who enjoy a great cup of tea the Daily Dose offers a good selection of Pluck Teas. We definitely stumbled upon a good thing. It is a shame that they do not have a website and hopefully will show up on searches on the next iteration of Apple Maps. In the meantime, here’s their Instagram. And their address is 1275 W Riverside Dr, Perth-Andover, NB E7H 5G9. 

With the coffee crisis over, we drove towards Charlottetown. Now while this was a 5.5 hour drive and we took about 6.5 hours because we took a few detours and breaks. For example, we took a detour to this place:

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This is the Hartland Covered Bridge which is world’s longest covered wooden bridge. We didn’t cross it as we were not sure that we could not guarantee that the bikes on our roof rack would fit into the bridge. So we settled for taking pictures.

We then got back on the Trans Canada Highway which eventually led to the Confederation Bridge.

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Just on the other side of the Confederation Bridge we found a bay with a railway caboose, a lighthouse, and a small gift shop.

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One thing that we tripped over was a fox who apparently lived on the property and wasn’t really shy towards humans.

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Also, we also tripped over a dock that seemed to be not frequently used.

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From here, it was another 50 minutes to our final destination which was the Hotel On Pownal in Charlottetown. I chose this hotel because it offered secure storage for our bikes which was in a room next to the front desk. We’re in a smallish room that didn’t exactly have a view. But we were fine with that. The only thing that was a downer was that we missed “happy hour” where the hotel serves up beer and wine.

After getting into the room, we went to a place that my wife chose called Fishbones which had decent fish and chips and fried clams with chowder which is what I and my wife had respectively. My wife did note that their white sangria was outstanding. One thing that I will note is that the first couple of local beers that I wanted to have were out of stock. That was weird.

Tomorrow we’ll figure out what we will do on our first full day in Charlottetown. Stay tuned for what we come up with.

 

The Great Canadian Road Trip II – Part 1: Toronto To Edmundston NB

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 5, 2019 by itnerd

For the second time in three years, my wife and I have decided to take a road trip to the east coast of Canada. This time we’re going to the province of Prince Edward Island which is the birthplace of confederation and Canada’s smallest province. The goal is to cycle, hike and sightsee for 8 days. That doesn’t include the two days each way to drive to Prince Edward Island which may be a bit of a chore because of today’s drive to Edmundston New Brunswick which is a 10 hour drive from Toronto.

Once we left the traffic of Toronto, it was smooth sailing until we hit Montreal where we encountered this (Note: All pictures in this post were taken with the Nikon Coolpix P1000):

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While Apple Maps did warn us about this traffic jam, it was frustrating to be in it. It took us almost an hour to go about 10K. The cause being a pothole that local authorities had blocked off, which in turn forced traffic around said pothole. Once we were past that, we went through this tunnel and back on our way.

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Once we were out of Montreal and on the roads headed to New Brunswick, this is the sort of scenery that we saw.

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When we had to stop for a bio break, or just to stretch our legs, these rest stops in Quebec came in handy:

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In total, it took us twelve hours to get to Edmundston New Brunswick. We were staying at the Best Western Plus in Edmundston. This hotel was mostly great. By that we mean that the room was accessible for those who needed it. It was close to some restaurants and the highway. Plus they had a list of restaurants that was pre-printed and had the opening and closing hours on it. That allowed us to have dinner at a local Boston Pizza where my wife had a Mediterranean pizza and I had some pasta. There were plenty of places to plug in our tech to recharge, and it had good WiFi (though a lame password which was “bwe1234”). To top it off they had a good breakfast and they were trying to be eco friendly. That was all good, but here’s where it came off the rails. When they served breakfast the next day, they served it on paper plates and using plastic utensils. And they didn’t even try to recycle anything as everything went into the trash. Besides being a cheap and cheesy move which given that this hotel is $200 a night, it shreds any eco friendly crew that they had. If someone from Best Western is reading this, you might want do something about that.

Having said all of that, it was a comfortable place to stay which allowed us to get a good nights sleep to allow us to make the final five hour push to Prince Edward Island. Tune in tomorrow to see us take a couple of interesting detours on our way to Prince Edward Island.

My Fourth Trip To India: Part 7

Posted in Commentary with tags , on November 24, 2017 by itnerd

The journey back to Canada was….. scary in more ways than one. Let me explain how starting with the drive to the airport. Here’s what it looked like from my perspective:

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The drive was nerve wracking. Partially due to the volume of traffic, partially because of the risks that people take by cutting people off or trying to move forward by any means required. Staying in your lane? Nope? Speed limit? No need for one. It was a very long 45 minutes. To put that in perspective, it took me 20 minutes to get from the airport to the hotel when I arrived. That was when I foolishly thought I was used to the driving in this place.

Things at the airport actually went pretty smoothly. Once I got past the security checkpoint which required you to hand over your itinerary and your passport for examination by an Indian soldier with a machine gun backed up by another Indian soldier with a machine gun, I checked in with Air Canada. That was quick and so was clearing passport control and security. Even boarding the flight was efficient and civilized. Unfortunately that’s where the good part of my journey home ended.

The first six hours of the flight (which was 14.5 hours long) were uneventful. I managed to watch Passengers, the last four episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale, and four episodes of the second season of Cyberwar which is a show I’d recommend to anyone who is interested in hacking and the people who pull off hacks. But that changed when a passenger became a problem. From my vantage point which was almost across from him on the left side of the plane, he was belligerent in multiple languages And though I did not see it, he had apparently assaulted a woman in front of him. When he was confronted by flight attendants, he then soiled himself and that was not pleasant to smell. Now the flight attendants worked really hard to keep him calm “ish” for the rest of the flight, but it was clear that they were concerned enough that the you could feel the speed of the plane increase. I thought we were going to divert to the nearest airport, but we managed to land in Toronto 45 minutes ahead of the scheduled landing time which was scheduled to be 5:05 AM this morning. That’s where things got real. The plane taxied directly to a gate that was away from any other aircraft and Peel Regional Police boarded the aircraft. I managed to get my phone out to record a video. Sorry about the shakey cam:

They held us on the plane while this was going on and then for about 15 minutes afterwards. When we finally deplaned, I spotted him in the arrivals area:

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That’s him standing on the right while the cops question the flight crew on the left. I went looking online to find out what if any charges were laid and I was unable to get those details. But seeing as it doesn’t take much to get tossed into jail for causing a disturbance on a flight, I imagine that he will be doing some time the grey bar hotel.

After that excitement, it was a trip through customs, picking up my bags which was made easier because of the Tile Sport, and then getting picked up by my wife for the ride home. I got home at 6AM and crashed until noon where I did some laundry and then went out to see a client.

Now, let me wrap up a couple of loose ends. I previously mentioned that I would have to use multiple contact lenses in a day because of the pollution that was present in India. Since getting home, I’ve had use two different cleaners to get them back to a state where I could wear them comfortably. One is Clear Care Plus which is a peroxide based cleaner that I normally use. That takes six hours to clean my contacts. But before I use that, I use Boston Simplus for four hours. As for my skin, it hasn’t completely recovered. But it is way less itchy than it was 24 hours ago. That shows you how bad the pollution was.

That about wraps things up from my latest trip to India. It was a different sort of trip with some unexpected twists. I have to come back in the near future, and it will be interesting to see what experiences that brings.

My Fourth Trip To India: Part 6

Posted in Commentary with tags , on November 23, 2017 by itnerd

I’m completing my last day in India and I want to wrap up a few things before I head to the airport for my 14 hour flight home. First of all was the smog issue. Now it wasn’t as bad as I heard it was going to be. Apparently according to the locals, it was a lot better than has been in the last few weeks. However, this is what I’ve seen during my stay here:

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You can see the smog in the above picture. If that’s better, I’d hate to see what’s worse. Also, I have noted that my skin is very itchy which is something that I had never experienced here before. Besides that, I am lucky that I brought two pairs of contact lenses as they have become unwearable by the time the business day is over and I have to swap them out for a fresh pair if I want to be able to see and be comfortable while doing it. That’s also something that I have never experienced before. It will be interesting to see how long it takes my body to recover from this smog.

Now one thing that I have not done to this point is show you the sights of Gurgaon. Here’s what the drive to and from my client looked like:

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One thing that caught my attention was this:

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The sign says “Be Alert, Accidents hurt.” No offense to anyone who is Indian, but drivers are insane here. I can’t believe how people drive around here as this sort of driving would land you in jail in a lot of other places. Not to mention that there is a very liberal use of the horn. I said early in this trip that this no longer bothered me. That was true until today where I was back to feeling like I was taking my life into my own hands by being driven around these parts. It also didn’t help that in the parking garage at my client’s office, I almost got hit by a car that must have been doing 60 KM/H in a space where you shouldn’t be doing anything over 10 KM/H.

Now, some final notes about the Le Meridian Gurgaon. One is in the form of photos of the lobby:

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This is a stunningly good looking lobby that is clean. When I say clean, I mean that I can never find a speck of dirt. It’s pretty freaking impressive. There’s a bar and two restaurants that are in the lobby that can take care of your eating and drinking needs like this in my case:

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This is a Kingfisher beer which is a local brand of beer that is available elsewhere. I really liked it and I’ll be seeing if I can grab a few cans of it when I get home as I really liked it.

On the whole, this hotel has top shelf service. I will admit that they sometimes struggle with service at breakfast if you show up for breakfast at 7 to 8:30 AM. But beyond that, I have zero complaints.

I also got a chance to do a final workout today. Here’s the result:

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While I was working out, I got to watch a wedding celebration which was unique to see. I wished that I took some photos, but I was focused on my workout. That was a shame as it was really interesting to watch.

The hotel did have problems with the TV service this week where for significant periods of time you could not watch TV. Well, when I got back to my hotel room, I found this:

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The manager of the hotel personally signed an apology letter on letterhead which is on great quality paper. Now this is how you do customer service. Rogers and Bell Canada, you need to pay attention as this is how you treat customers.

Here’s the bottom line. I really would recommend this place if you need to stay someplace in the Delhi region as this is a great place to stay.

Now, while this was a business trip with very limited amounts of time to get out and do something other than business. I did have the opportunity to go out and get this for my wife:

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I dragged along my client to negotiate the price of these items at a shop that was not a place that tourists would go to. On the left is a scarf. On the right is a jacket. The middle is a fridge magnet which was tossed in as part of the deal. Originally, it was going to be 15000 Rupees. That’s $294 CDN. My client managed to get that down to 12500 Rupees which is $248. Could I have done better? I don’t know. Maybe I could. I guess I am taking the view that any discount is a good discount. And it is likely better than anything that I could have done on my own. Whatever. I know that my wife will really like these items.

Now, by the time you read this, I will be on the way to the airport to fly home. I plan on arriving somewhere between 3 and 4 hours ahead of my flight to make sure that I make my flight on time. And I will be posting my final part of this travelogue when I get home. Stay tuned for that.

My Fourth Trip To India: Part 5

Posted in Commentary with tags , on November 22, 2017 by itnerd

Today was another day of interviews in terms of getting support agents. By the end of the day we had one more tech support agent identified. But we found a second candidate as well that we will consider. It depends on the two remaining interviews that we have tomorrow. We likely won’t get all four agents hired while I am here, and we are fine with that as we are prioritizing quality over quantity as that will get the best results for this tech support operation. Now, a couple of people have asked me via e-mail why I am helping to build this tech support operation. The fact is that I have built contact centers in the past and I actively consult on how contact centers can deliver the best possible service and how they can get the right staff on board. Thus this is totally within my wheelhouse.

Lunch today was a quick one as we had a lot of candidates that were being interviewed. We went into the Cyber Hub to a pizza place called Instapizza. The service was quick and the personal sized pizzas that we got were great. The Cyber Hub has a ton of places to eat and you could spend weeks exploring them. It’s simply a must do if you’re in Gurgaon.

After the business day was done, I returned to the hotel and did a workout. I did a 40 minute stationary bike ride followed by 12 minutes on the treadmill. Here’s the result:

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I must admit that my Apple Watch is really helping me to focus on working out which is a good thing as I am not keen on leaving the hotel to wander around. You might say that the warnings that I have received since I started to take on clients here in this country have really been ingrained within me. Speaking of the hotel, I can’t say enough good things about the Le Meridian Gurgaon. The food at breakfast and dinner are outstanding and the place is visually stunning. The staff here go out of their way to make sure that you have a good time while you stay in this hotel. Finally, it’s a short drive to the Cyber Hub if you want to go there for a night out. If you need to stay in Gurgaon, you have to choose this place.

Tomorrow is my final day in the country with a couple of interviews and to tie up some loose ends. Before I leave for the airport, I have to do a GoToMeeting with another client in North America to do some training. I also have a training session with a German customer tonight in India time. The fact that I am in India doesn’t stop me from having deal with other customers. Stay tuned for that.

My Fourth Trip To India: Part 4

Posted in Commentary with tags , on November 21, 2017 by itnerd

My second working day in India was taken up by interviewing candidates for the tech support team that my client is building. By the end of the day, we had identified one candidate. Sure we interviewed lots more people than that. But we’re being picky as we want the best people for this tech support team. That’s why we spent all day to get just one person to fill one of the four open positions that are up for grabs.

We went to lunch in the Cyber City to a place called the Cyber Hub Social. This is one of those places with a different sort of vibe as evidenced by these pictures:

Besides the restaurant, they have small offices that you can rent by the day or the hour. Handy if you need a place to work for a bit or you’re trying to start a business which is a popular thing to do in India. They have a very unique menu and if you like unique drinks and a unique take on Indian and western cuisine.

Oh yeah, this is how you get your bill:

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You get your bill in this box. It’s kind of cool actually.

After my day was over, I headed back to the hotel to do a workout for the second day in a row. The Le Meridian Gurgaon workout room is well equipped:

Besides the workout machines that have the ability to track heart rate, calories, and allow you to play your tunes from your iPhone via a USB port and watch TV, this place has weights too. I did three things both days that I have used the workout room. Treadmill, elliptical, and recumbent stationary cycle. Each for 15 minutes. Here’s my results from yesterday and today via my Apple Watch Series 2:

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I plan to work out on Wednesday as well. Thursday is a non starter as I am going to do a training session with a client in North America via WebEx before I head to the airport for my flight home.

Tomorrow, I am going to finish off the interviews. Stay tuned for how that goes.

UPDATE: I had dinner at the restaurant in the hotel and I had a pasta dish that was great. Here’s a picture of the restaurant:

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