Thursday, 16 January 2014

Montreal 2014

Train to Montreal (station) took 11 hours which surprisingly didn't seem it! With so much to see outside the carriage you can spend the whole time taking in the scenery! Despite the freezing temperatures prior to our arrival, it seemed to have warmed up for us as it wasn't too cold. We headed to Hi Montreal hostel where my sister had been staying and working and received a warm welcome- and a discount! Thanks sis! Montreal is in Quebec, a French Canadian province. There are almost two different sides to Montreal, the old more French part and the new modern city. The contrast is staggering and is like stepping over a single line into a different world. The new city with a main shopping street being Catherine Street. Once into the old part of the city the French influence is obvious - road signs in French, old stone buildings, horses and carts. I much preferred the old part of the city with its old style European character and charm. Quirky cafes, shops and restaurants on all corners. Ice Skating- The residents of the city carry around ice skates in the winter like the British do handbags! It is their thing, and there are plenty ice rinks to cater for everyone! We had a go on the Ice Rink at the Old Port, as it got dark they lit it up which was a unexpected treat at the end of the day. Mount Royal Park, (Parc du Mont Royal) one of Montreals largest green spaces has fantastic views of the city accompanied by ice rinks and sledging, what a great atmosphere! We did a walking tour with a lovely quebecious from the hostel. Who talked us through some of the history. Intrestingly the park was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead who also co designed Central Park in New York. Covered in snow it was a winter wonderland! Once at the top we were left to enjoy the views and soak up the atmosphere and have another ice skate..

Friday, 10 January 2014

New York 2014

2014 started with a bang when i visited Elizabeth ,my sister who was doing a year working and travelling in Canada. She was based in Montreal at the time. She was turning the big 30 so we decided to meet in New York as it was just a train journey away (a 12 hour train journey but that's nothing right?!) We had a fantastic week exploring the city and celebrating her 30th birthday. Staying in the Penthouse Suite of the Hi New York hostel was just another bonus! Courtesey of Elizabeth as she worked for the Hi Hostel in Montreal! Yes it was a hostel penthouse but honestly you would never have guessed!! On the first evening we made our way accross town to Times Square- i have been before but almost 10 years ago so i was excited to go again. It is like nowhere else that i have been, especially in the evening- what actually seems like daytime because it is so bright! Love it. The heart of the city which never sleeps.
We headed upto the Top of the Rock (Rockerfeller Centre) on her special day which was actually a present from an old school friend, Hayley. Hayley had promised it was the best views of the city and we did not disagree! Amazing views accross Central Park and Empire State the other side, amongst the many huge buildings making up the Manhattan Skyline. Celebrations continued with birthday cocktails in the East Village (mine was an Elderflower Martini) and then yummy Thai food in the evening. Other highlights of the city included the Staten Island ferry with fantastic views of the Statue of Liberty. This is why lots of tourists get this ferry for these views alone. Like us, many people were getting straight back on the returning ferry to do it all over again! Brooklyn Bridge- The hike accross it is quite something with again more great views of the city. Once in Brooklyn we headed for some lunch where we had the biggest and tasiest gourmet burgers we have ever seen at Bare Burger!
With still rememnants of Christmas it was easy to see why it is such a popular city for Christmas Shopping! We did our fairshare even if mainly 'window'! Sadly we were too late for the huge Christmas Tree you see in all the films but there was still the Ice Rink in Central Park! The vast space of Central Park did surprise me - its huge! Full of joggers, dog walkers and toursits meandering along taking in the awesome scenery.
Pastrami at Katz Deli - if you go to New York i think this is a must do! Made famous in the film when Harry Met Sally this is a rough around the edges restaurant appealing to tourists and locals alike with photographs covering the wall of the famous people who have visited! You order at the counter and i must admit it is confusing to start with but they seem to be atuned to tourists as they soon yelled at us to go over and encouraged us to try the pastrami sandwich!