Sacre Coeur Basilica (Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand)

My submission is of the Sacre Coeur basilica located in the heart of Montmartre, taken from my trip to Paris this past summer. Personally, it is one of my favourite pictures from the trip, but perhaps that is also because it brings back nice memories. For me this moment  had that “wow factor”, and while a picture is worth a thousand words, it is still not enough to describe a feeling.

Sacre Coeur basilica, Paris, France

Sacre Coeur basilica, Paris, France

The basilica is located on  top of a hill at the highest point of the city, visible even from the top of Notre Dame’s towers. Standing next to the basilica and looking straight up, I couldn’t help but marvel at its beauty and grandeur. For a moment time stood still and there was nothing to worry about, no place to hurry to, no other thoughts to occupy the mind, the most important thing at that moment was just being there and enjoying and appreciating the moment. I was already amazed and I hadn’t even stepped foot into the Sacre Coeur yet!

So let’s just say I was blown away when I walked in. The word “perfect” is not good enough to describe that moment, that feeling. The entire inside was beautifully decorated, and there was not one spot that was unaccounted for in the design. And to top it all off, in the evening that I was there, a ray of sunlight was shining in through the stained glass windows, casting a colourful light on one of the icons. No photography was allowed inside, but it’s probably better that way, as I doubt a photograph can capture that magical quality of standing inside the basilica.

 

Santa Claus Parade

Nothing marks the start of the holiday season quite like standing outside in the cold and watching beautifully decorated floats go by playing Christmas music. Yes, it’s that time for the Santa Claus Parade! We had it in Kingston just last week.

There’s always something about the event that can’t help but put you in a festive mood. The day started with beautiful snow-covered streets in the morning. When it started getting dark, it was time to head out to the parade. The main street was shut down and some stores had employees outside with a large container of hot chocolate and tea ready for the parade viewers. The entire street was nicely decorated with snow flake lights and everyone was bundled up. (Note for next time: bring an outdoor folding chair and a warm blanket!)

The parade started off with a red post box walking down the street followed by Canada Post representatives collecting letters for Santa. Other participants in the parade included the food bank and local organizations. There were plenty of floats, lights and Christmas music. The parade was concluded by the appearance of Santa Claus himself!

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Lines to Patterns

This week’s challenge by The Daily Post is really fun: looking for patterns in everyday life.

First, take a look at the city hall from a different angle.

Looking up at the Toronto City Hall

Looking up at the Toronto City Hall

The second, lovely stained-glass ceilings.

Ceiling of Osgoode Hall in Toronto

Ceiling of Osgoode Hall in Toronto

And last but not least, there’s no way we can forget the Pyramids of the Louvre.

Louvre: From within the pyramid

Louvre: From within the pyramid

Paris Discounts

In a previous post I talked about student discounts available in London. Now let’s get talking about Paris, one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. When I visited Paris I noticed that they do things a little differently, in the sense that they don’t actually have student discounts. Instead they have discounts based on age. If you are 25 years or younger, get ready to save money!

Free Entry for EU Citizens Under 26 Years of Age

Citizens of the European Union aged 18-25 (inclusive) get free entry to some of the museums and attractions in Paris such as Versailles, the Towers of Notre Dame and the Louvre. Information about this is listed on each attraction’s website. Also remember to have your passport ready to show proof of citizenship.

At Versailles, you do not need to buy a “free” ticket. It is enough to show your passport at the entrance of the palace to gain entry. On the other hand, at places like Notre Dame and the Louvre you will need to stand in line at the ticket counter with everyone else to show your passport and gain a “free” ticket to the museum.

Youths (under 18, under 25)

Many attractions in Paris are free for children under the age of 18. Additionally, 18-25 year-olds (even non-EU citizens) are able to get discounted admission to attractions upon presenting a document to show proof of age.

The Paris Pass/Paris Museum Pass

These passes provide you with free entry to over 60 museums, monuments and galleries, along with a number of other perks. In my opinion, the most important perk offered by these passes is skipping the line at the attractions. Paris is full of tourists and every major attraction has a long line up, so it is not uncommon to wait over an hour to get in. With these passes you will be spending less time standing in line, leaving you with more time to explore the city. Which, when you think about it, is probably the reason you are there in the first place!

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

 

Let’s go to the Ex!

Nothing marks the end of summer in Toronto quite like the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE). The CNE, currently in its 135th year, runs from the middle of August until the Labour Day weekend. From midway rides, carnival games, concerts, shows, shopping, exhibits, to an entire building dedicated to food, there is something for everyone!

“Tic Toc” Acrobatics Show: I love watching acrobats perform, so this is one of the highlights of the CNE for me. This year’s theme is time.

Acrobatic Show

Acrobatic Show

IMG_20130826_113412-001The Flying Wallendas: Watching one of the famous circus acts perform on the tightrope was amazing. We were able to meet them and get their autographs at the end of the performance, which was super cool. 

The Flying Wallendas - 3 person pyramid

The Flying Wallendas – 3 person pyramid

Shopping: Let’s not forget the shopping! The exhibit hall is full of outlets and individual stands with discounted items, as well as product demonstrations. In fact, the exhibit hall is so large that it would be possible to spend an entire day there. Shop ’till you drop. Literally.

Food: Anyone spending a day at the CNE is bound to get hungry at some point. Food stands can be found throughout the grounds, but for the largest selection, head over to the food building. There is an entire building dedicated to food, so be prepared to spend longer than average time deciding what to eat. There are the usual fast food stands as well as more adventurous selections and many deep-fried foods. Deep-fried Mars bars anyone?

Cordon bleu schnitzel burger from the Schnitzel House

Cordon bleu schnitzel burger from the Schnitzel House. It’s so huge, I got stares from people passing by the table while I was eating it.

The Farm: Visit the farm to see and learn about different animals and to get a taste of farm life.

Llama

Llama

Cascade: Cascade is a group of stuntmen from France who were on Britain’s Got Talent and have also performed stunts in a number of movies. Not only are they amazing at what they do, they also have a great sense of humour and put on a very good show.

Cascades performing at the CNE

Cascade performing at the CNE

Cascades performance

Cascade performance

Lastly, buying tickets online before opening day provides you with discounted admission as well as not having to wait in the ticket line at the gate.

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Carnival games, Sky Ride, and people everywhere.

CNE nicely lit up at night.

The CNE nicely lit up at night.

ISIC and London discounts

Getting an ISIC card in preparation for a trip is definitely a good idea. ISIC (International Student Identity Card) is the only student ID that is internationally recognized. With all the discounts available for students, it would be a shame to miss out due to a lack of proper ID. ISIC cards cost $20 plus an additional $10 if you don’t already have a picture that can be used for the card. However, it only takes a couple of uses before the card pretty much pays for itself, so they are definitely worth it. ISIC cards are valid from September to the December of the following year. Even if you have just graduated from school, it may be possible to get an ISIC card if a proof of student status form is shown for that time period.

The following are some places in London where student discounts are offered:

  • Heathrow Express
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
  • St Paul’s Cathedral
  • Houses of Parliament
  • The Royal Mews
  • The Queen’s Gallery
  • Tower Bridge Exhibition
  • Tower of London

Not all of the student discounts are listed online, so it doesn’t hurt to ask if there are any available.

Additionally, some of the museums in London are free for everyone:

  • British Museum
  • Tate Modern Museum
  • National Gallery
  • Natural History Museum
  • Science Museum

Happy traveling!

 

Eating Dutch food in Amsterdam

Should be easy. But it’s actually harder than you’d think. First of all, what is Dutch food? And secondly, where do you buy it?

All I’ve heard about the Dutch cuisine was that it is mostly potatoes, salads or sandwiches. The problem is that you can get that almost anywhere, and once you travel all the way to Amsterdam you might want to try something a little more special than what you can get back home. Luckily for me, I was able to find 2 restaurants where I could have a taste of some Dutch food.

Moeders

Moeders is the Dutch word for mothers, and their philosophy is to serve traditional Dutch food that is just like your mother’s cooking. All the walls are covered in pictures of mothers provided by their customers. Moeders still accepts pictures of mothers. Another unique thing about them is that their cutlery and dishes don’t match. When the restaurant first opened 20+ years ago, they asked their customers to bring their own plates and utensils, which are still used in the restaurant today.

Moeders from the outside.

Moeders from the outside.

Inside the restaurant with framed photos of mothers on the wall.

Inside the restaurant with framed photos of mothers on the wall.

I really liked that you could order a 3 course meal for a fixed price. Just make sure to go to the restaurant hungry because their food is delicious and there’s lots of it! They are almost always full so it is a good idea to make a reservation ahead of time, otherwise your only option might be to sit outside.

Now onto the food!

Farmer's Salad

Farmer’s Salad

Starter - Small egg in the Meadow

Small egg in the Meadow

Main Course - Hotchpotch. Made up of mashed potatoes with sauerkraut, sausage, a meatball and bacon.

Hotchpotch – Made up of mashed potatoes with sauerkraut, sausage, a meatball and bacon.

Main course - Suddervlees. Stewed beef, potatoes and red cabbage.

Suddervlees – Stewed beef, potatoes and red cabbage.

Dessert - Pie of the day

Pie of the day

Dessert - Dutch Delight. Mini-curd, pancakes and spiced ice cream.

Dutch Delight – Mini-curd, pancakes and spiced ice cream.

The Pancake Bakery

Pannekoek, which is the Dutch word for pancake, is also a typical Dutch food. Dutch pancakes are much thinner and larger than the American pancakes and come with a variety of toppings. There are savory ones with meats and vegetables, and sweet ones with fruits, syrup and ice cream.

The Pancake Bakery

The Pancake Bakery

Pancake with ham, cheese and mushroom.

Pancake with ham, cheese and mushroom.

Apple, cinnamon ice cream, cinnamon liqueur and whipped cream pancake.

Apple, cinnamon ice cream, cinnamon liqueur and whipped cream pancake.

Stroopwafel

A stroopwafel is made up of two thin wafers with caramel sauce on the inside. I first encountered this at The Pancake Bakery and fell in love with it.

Stroopwafel from Albert Cuyp Market

Stroopwafel from Albert Cuyp Market

Gaming at the Science Centre

From now until September 2nd, the Ontario Science Centre has an exhibit called Game On 2.0. This exhibit displays the history of video games and allows visitors to see and play all sorts of games. Just look at the huge list of games on display. Now I’m no gamer but this exhibit was really neat! I loved playing the arcade pacman and pinball. They also had a game on display where each player must hold a microphone-shaped controller as still as possible, while trying to tap the other’s controllers. Each time your controller gets tapped, it lights up and you lose a life. In total, you have 3 lives, and the person that has a life in the end is declared the winner. It was short and fun, and as it is currently in the beta stage, it was awesome being able to play it.

Another part of the science centre that is a must-see, is the OMNIMAX theatre. There are always a number of movies to choose from, most of them being hour-long documentaries. The screen is a large dome, making you feel like you are actually part of the movie, and not just in a theatre watching a movie. This is especially true for scenes filmed from a moving plane, as you feel like you are actually flying. And this might be just me, but every time I watch a movie at the OMNIMAX theatre I want to totally change my career direction. I guess it’s not that bad right now considering that I don’t have a career yet! So I should probably limit the number of documentaries I watch.

What else is there to see? Plenty! Visit the rainforest, the science arcade and the planetarium. But don’t stop there. All their exhibits are great! The best part is that most exhibits are hands-on, so you learn about science by performing the experiments!

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Science Centre’s aquarium.

Let’s not forget to visit the structures outside the building! There is a huge water organ that you can play, a huge thermometer, a few pinhole boxes, etc.

Last but not least, students receive a discounted admission, so remember to take your student card with you!

Some Past Exhibits:
Body Worlds
Harry Potter Exhibit
Reptiles
DaVinci Exhibit
Mythical Creatures