Monthly Archives: February 2011

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The best place to visit in Toronto

After spending almost two weeks skiing at Lake louise. I went to Toronto for three days on 23rd of January to have something different after slow rural life. If you have a few more days somewhere else you don’t feel as sad when your holiday comes to an end.

If you go to Toronto, don’t visit major tourist attractions like CN Tower or Niagara Falls. They are all rubbish and very touristy. All what I had left after visiting CN Tower were a few dozen pictures that weren’t that much better then views from my hotel room at Sheraton and dizzy feeling after going down super-fast elevator. But I’m glad that I went, after leaving the tower I decided to look around and saw an old train depot and a few steam engines. Turned out that there was a brewery inside the depot. Awesome! It’s everyone’s dream to visit a brewery!

Steam Whistle Brewery is a relatively small independent brewery in the heart of Toronto that is conscious about environment and local communities, but most importantly makes amazing Pilsner beer! The brewery occupies about half of the round old depot. Inside there is a bar selling fresh beer. Walls are decorated with paintings and art that catch your eye. The brewery itself is behind large glass windows. You can see beer being made while you enjoy your bottle. It is quite amazing!

For just C$10 you can do a tour around the brewery that includes free beer(much more when I expected) and a souvenir. I signed up for a 13:30 tour. We had to wear headphones with transmitter hanging around my neck, our guide Shane had a mic so we would hear him. This is probably because of the noise inside the production area. One of the first things he asked is if we wanted fresh beer. Naturally everybody agreed and he brought beers right off the production line. My one was bottled just 10 minutes ago! How awesome is that!

Photos and video after the break

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Ice Carving Festival at Lake Louise

I have to admit that I didn’t expect much from the ice sculpture festival. I have seen similar events before, and after watching a documentary on TV about construction of an ice hotel I thought that there won’t be anything else to impress me. I was wrong.

I’ve never seen ice sculptures so beautiful and elaborate. The degree of detail and precision was impressive. And the whole event was set against the backdrop of historic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel on one side and frozen lake and mountains on the other. It was an unforgettable experience. Fairmont even built an ice bar for guests, offering a selection of icewines among other drinks. And on the lake itself people were ice skating and playing hockey around the ice castle. It was quite an event.

The festival started on 21st of January and lasted for 3 days. The main part is the competition between professional ice carving teams from around the world, including Canada, USA, Russia, UK and others. They had to complete their work in 3 days. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the finished work because I had a flight to Toronto early next morning.

Photos after the break

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Winter holiday at Lake Louise

Lake Louise is a wonderful little village in Canadian Rockies, located in the Banff National Park. I went there for my skiing holiday in January. It’s really small, just a few houses, 4 hotels and a local mall. But I think it’s size is the best thing what I love about Lake Louise. It’s just so peaceful and quiet, makes you forget about busy city life and connected world. I had a holiday like no other: skiing, hiking and enjoying myself in the great outdoors, forsaking the Internet. It’s wonderful when you can just forget about your emails, news and stop receiving push messages.

Lake Louise village got it’s name form the lake located just a few minutes away by car. It’s a mountain lake, fed by the glacier that’s hanging off the edge of the mountain behind it. On the shore of the lake stays the The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel. Unfortunately I didn’t stay there, but I certainly would next time. It offers absolutely breathtaking views and the service is outstanding. During my two weeks at Lake Louise I spent a few evenings at the Chateau. Ice-skating around ice castle on the frozen lake was an unforgettable experience.

I really loved the village, everybody where very friendly. When I bought a bottle of maple syrup at the village store, shopkeeper asked me if I am going to poor it on the snow. At first I thought he was joking, but turned out that you can make maple candy this way. You can read about similar candy here and here. It’s nice when people genuinely want to talk and help. Most of the restaurants were quite simple, yet very clean and friendly. The Mountain restaurant had the nicest waitress ever and the pub at Post Hotel offered delicious food by a cozy fireplace.

I had amazing time at Lake Louise and really hoping to came back again.

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A Day in Banff

Banff is a beautiful town located in the heart of the Banff national park in Alberta, Canada. It’s the closest town to Lake Louise and I wanted to have a little break from skiing, so I decided to come to Banff for a day. When I arrived in the morning there were very few people on the streets and most of the shops were closed. Only later did I realise that it was because it was excruciatingly cold. But after the sun came out, people started coming out.

After having a good look around town in the morning, we decided to head to the direction of the Fairmont. The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is perhaps one of the most famous grand railway hotels built by The Canadian Pacific Railway to serve passengers of expanding railway network. It was constructed in 1888 and later rebuild several times. It looks absolutely stunning, and with red brickwork and it’s many towers it rivals the mountains in majesty. Inside it’s as grand as it looks outside, I would love to stay there but unfortunately I was in Banff just for a day. I would recommend anyone who comes to visit Banff to stay there as it is the place to be in town.

After Fairmont we went further up to the Hot Springs and Gondola. The Gondola takes you to the top of the Sulphur mountain in just 8 minutes. It is worth going there because the views from the top are absolutely breathtaking, you can see the whole surrounding area and the town of Banff itself. There is also a walkway that takes you to the old weather station, built atop Sanson Peak. After coming back down the Gondola, only a short walk away is another famous Banff attraction, the Hot Springs. For just several dollars you can go in the 40℃ hot pool right in the middle of winter. It was quite amazing swimming in the pool overlooking the mountains when temperature outside is below zero.

The town itself is really fun, full of restaurants and bars, shops selling everything from dinosaur fossils to cowboy stuff.I bought some awesome souvenirs, including a real coyote pelt. The locals are really friendly and always happy to help.

I was really surprised to see a Louis Vuitton boutique, especially because there are no other luxury shops in Banff. All the stores are regular ones that you’d expect to see in the small town, so it really stands out. I’m still quite puzzled why it’s there but it could be for Asian tourists that visit Banff in the summer. They really like the brand. Apparently Louis Vuitton was open in Banff for 14 years now.

Below are a few photographs from Banff.

Photos after the break

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Skiing at Lake Louise in Canada

I’m not really in to sports, but skiing is an exception. I love the feeling of excitement and freedom you get when ice cold wind is brushing against your face, hurrying you to go down as fast as you can. Unfortunately last time I’ve been skiing was back in 2005, so I was really looking forward to get back on the slopes.

I’ve booked a holiday at Lake Louise in Canada from 11th of January to 23rd. At first I doubted Lake Louise because I thought I would have more fun in larger town, it’s just a small village in Canadian Rockies. But I was not disappointed. Lake Louise is an amazing skiing resort. According to Wikipedia it’s the largest one in Canada, offering almost 140 named runs and 17 square kilometres of skiable area across 3 mountain sides. It’s also by far the largest skiing resort I’ve ever been to. At first it seemed even a bit too big for me as I was trying to do everything at the same time. The terrain is very diverse, there are countless comfortable blue runs, challenging blacks and of course Powder Bowls. It never gets boring.

Every day I would ski from morning when the lifts open till late afternoon when they close. At 10 minutes to 4 I would take a gondola to the top. And to finish the day take a slow green runs down to the base, either Eagle Meadows or Deer Run. It was an amazing holiday.

Here’s a few pictures I took around the mountain. The sky always looks so beautiful and dramatic at Lake Louise, but for the first several days when I arrived it was snowing non-stop. I could not see the mountains from the village or the resort, the snow made everything look very surreal. Unfortunately it was also quite dark, so I couldn’t take very good photos.

Photos after the break

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FaceTime makes it easy to stay in touch when travelling

Video calling has been around for a long time, several years ago in Europe it was advertised as one of the biggest features of 3G. Every new flagship phone had a front-facing camera and billed as video calling capable, but it never really took off. It got quickly forgotten and everyone has moved on. But Apple re-invented video calling with introduction of FaceTime. And there is one area where it’s especially useful – staying connected abroad.

For me FaceTime has become and invaluable tool for travelling. Staying in touch with people I care about has always quite a struggle. FaceTime made contacting someone on the other side of the globe as trivial and simple as making a phone call. The beauty of it is that it integrates seamlessly with iOS and does not require almost any setup or configuration. It just works, period. No need to open any apps, remember passwords and log in to anything. I get to see my family and can talk for hours without paying a penny. The biggest limitation of FaceTime is said that it can’t work over mobile 3G networks, but this is actually not that important when travelling. I’m not crazy enough to video chat while roaming anyway and no 3G means that service stays free.

Since getting an iPhone 4 it became so easy to talk to people I care about for as long as I like. FaceTime brings people together no matter where they are.