A Travellerspoint blog

Give Peace a chance

John Lennon & Billy Connelly

sunny 20 °C
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So we rocked up after a 2 hour bus trip to Montreal from Ottawa and headed fo the Fairmont Hotel in town..... We'd got a special deal on the web for $99 and it was quite funny as we stumbled in with our rucksacks and the rest of the Clientele (mostly aging 80+ and wearing Chino's and a Polo Shirt) stared as if to ask "What are they doing here!"

The Hotel was fantastic, however, this was not the only reason we'd decided to stay there (well that and the fact it was right above the train station from where we'd be catching the train in the morning)

In the Queen Elizabeth Fairmont Hotel in Montreal…. in room 1742.... John Lennon and Joko Ono staged their famous "Sleep In"

Now this is one of those great Entertainment moments in the 21st Century (well I reckon) as as a result I was well excited and asked the girl at reception is I could go and see the room where this all took place some 30 years ago.

Anyway, she checked there was no one in the room (Which there wasn't) and we were given the room card with the strict instructions that this wasn't the normal thing and to bring the room key straight back down.

We arrived at the door and immediately the cleaner asked us if we were going to see the "John and Joko room"

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Now I know it's only a hotel room... however... underneath all the Entertainment stuff, John Lennon was trying to move America forward and the "Sleep In" and more importantly the song they wrote (Give Peace a Chance) whilst in the room was in direct conflict with the sentiments of the government and most of the public of the time and the Vietnam war that was raging on the other side of the world........ Sound Familiar!

The only difference today is that we don't have any John Lennons (unfortunately!) and we do still have stupid World Leaders!!!!

Anyway, the room was made up nicely and there were news paper clippings and gold disks and photographs on the walls.

It was a bit sterile to be honest and after me building it up... I was once again reminded that it was JUST a hotel room......

We left happy to have seen the room and happy that we'd found something that was quite unique in the world and in NONE of the travel guides and we were the only one's there!!!!

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That night we popped down to the Theatre to go and see the "Big Yin" Billy Connelly.

On the way, in the park, we saw some guy being interviewed by Canadian TV and we thought he looked familiar..... It was Jimmy Carr.

The Montreal Comedy festival was just starting and he was obviously plugging his show...

I didn't have my camera.... now the WElsh flag !!!! Damn Damn !!!! Now that would have been a good photo of Jimmy Carr holding the Welsh flag :)

Anyway, we headed into see the Chieftan.

After a couple of shandies we were escorted to our cheap of cheapest seats (Up amongst the pigeons and the Spiders webs) and managed to squint so we could see a chair, bottle of water and a towel ready for the Man himself.

It was a good night and Billy was very good. Now I say this reservedly as I was expecting the best comedian in the world… and he was good, don’t get me wrong… however… he wasn’t brilliant. That being said, he did get me crying at one point with laughter… which is no bad thing!

Steph enjoyed him so we were both happy and had a quick beer after the show before we headed to bed, ready to go to the train station the following morning. This was to be the start of our rail adventures around Canada for the next Month.

Posted by Taffski 12:53 Archived in Canada Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Ottawa

Capital of Canada

rain 20 °C
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We arrived in the bus Station having had an 8 and a half hour ride from Niagara. It was about 5pm and we'd managed to find a small hotel on the web for $99 per night. This compared to $80 for a double in a Hostel... so we thought we'd pay the extra $19 for a bit of luxury.

Wow... what a hotel... it's small and unassuming on the outside however, the Business Inn was right in the centre of Downtown (sorrounded by bars and restaurants.... it had a pool hall right below... and not a seedy sort of pool hall thing, quite a nice one with 21 pool tables!)

We walked into our room and we had a kitchen, fridge, Big TV, Microwave and Most impressive of all a PC !!! With Free Internet Access (ALL the TIME !!!) Gues that's why we've been catching up on our blog over the past few days !!!

Anyway, I can't recommend this place enough as an alternative to a hostel for a little luxury for a short time whilst in Ottawa.... it's made this place great so far!

We watched TV last night and surfed on the Internet (Picked up our rail tickets to Halifax from Montreal) and booked into hostels in Montreal and Halifax and did some washing (Which is also free... as is breakfast!) Anyway, here's their web site incase anyone's interested

http://www.thebusinessinn.com

Anyway... Ottawa.... well.... it's raining... and I mean really raining.

So, having checked into a great hostel and having spent the last two night in the room (the weathers been really really shite!) we were pleasantly surprised when we woke up today to blue skies !

Great.

Time to go to the Changing of the Guard Ceremony here in Ottawa.

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As Canada is a member of the Commonwealth and still has Queen Liz as their Monarch, the Changing of the Guard was like something you'd more likely see in Buckingham Palace than in Ottawa.... however... it was a more much more intimate and localised affair which I have to say... I really quite enjoyed.

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Steph and I got there early and sat on the grass in the lovely morning sunshine whilst the Guards of the Ottawa and Montreal Regiments of the Canadian Army changed Guard Duty for the Day (It's a daily event starting at 10am every day)

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Anyway, the Guys and gals did their strutting up and down the grass for about an hour and then we went on a tour of the Houses of Parliament in Ottawa.

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After a frisking at the security check point (Much the same as in any airport these days) we headed into the houses.

They were very much in the Ilk of the Houses of Parliament, whilst being more like the houses in NZ and OZ, being of a lesser scale than the Original in the UK.

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Still they operated with both an upper and lower house (A House of Commons and a Senate) much like Australia.

We headed up the Peace Tower for some lovely views over Ottawa and then Steph and I headed into the Markets to see what we could pick up (Managed to get a book on the Trans Continental Train Routes across Canada.... Handy!) and then tonight we've come home early (After a quick game of pool) as Steph is feeling a bit poorly (Got a cold!)

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Anyway, off tomorrow again to Montreal to see the Big Yin (Billy Connelly!..... Can't wait) and then on the Train for two days to Halifax (Ahould be fun!) So will be in touch again soon.....

PS Going to be staying in the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth in Montreal this time.... got a deal on the Internet.... Guess which famous Couple staged a world famous "Sleep In" in a hotel room in this hotel ????

Answers soon..... And Hopefully some pictures :)

Posted by Taffski 20:55 Archived in Canada Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Niagara Falls

Two sides in Two days ?

semi-overcast 20 °C
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The Bus arrived in the Niagara Bus Station after only an hour and half (Wow)

We'd booked into the HI (Hostelling International) Hostel as it was close to the bus station. This proved to be a bit of a double edged sword in that , although it was only a skip to the hostel from the Bus station... it was a good half hour walk to the falls from here. Steph and I didn't mind anyway as we enjoy walking!

The HI Hostels are a chain of hostel in North America and this was to be our first real HI hostel in Canada.

Since it's a chain and since we are HI members we get 10% off our bill. However, this HI hostel wasn't particularly nice, nor charming.. so we were glad we only had 2 nights booked there (Even though the girl in reception told us our room was the nicest in the place... we were still unconvinced having seen it!)

Either way, we were there and we dropped our bags off and set off down towards the falls to check out what the scene was regarding how, when etc.

As we got closer towards the falls we could hear the rumble in the distance and could then see the spray rising into the sky in the distance.

We'd arrived.... where ????

Well.......... we weren't exactly sure... however............ it looked like a cross between Blackpool and Las Vegas (with a bit of water chucked in for good measure!)

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It wasn't that bad... just the place was mobbed (and I mean mobbed) with tourists thronging from one place to the next trying to get the best vista in which to place their ugly mugs to get the perfect photo (Falls in the background but of course!)

The first thing I noticed was that we walked down to the falls and that the river flowed towards us. Maybe it's just me, however, when you see the falls in the movies you see the falls running from right to left from the US side (Left to right from the Canadian)... so for some reason I was surprised to see them running the opposite way.

Fairly obvious really as they run from right to left on the canadian as you look South as the river runs naturally down to the ocean (which was to our left or the East!)

Confused..... I was......... Either way... I was surprised!

Second thing was (I'm beginning to think I was a bit of an idiot regarding my pre-conceived ideas about Niagara! Steph certainly thought I was) there were 2 Water falls! Not just one big one........ but one big one and another one ? Why had I not known this before.... don't they have both falls in the Films etc. ????

Anyway, I've now been educated... well sort of.....

There are the American falls (Or Bridal Veil Falls) So called as they're on the American side of the river (or look like a Brides Veil?) and the Horse Shoe (Or Canadian) falls, so called as they're shaped like a horse shoe (or on the Canadian side of the river)

Eh ???????

We reckon there's some kind of conspiracy here with the namings of these things....(Depends who you spoke to as to what they were supposed to be called!)

Anyway... the American (Or Bridals Veil) falls were lovely (if a little small.... you have to remember we've seen Iguazu... and I have to be honest here..... it's a close call but Iguazu gets my call at the moment!)

The Horse Shoe (Or Canadian) Falls (Wo ... this is getting confusing!) were more the typical Water Fall you were expecting to see having seen it in the movies umpteen times. The small Tourist Boats (Maid of the mist... or rather Maids of the Mists.... Many Baots, Many Mists!) bobbed into and out of the Falls every few minutes.

Unfortunately for us... the weather wasn't brilliant so we decided to head for a quick shandy (usual Extortionate prices!) and then managed to find a supermarket / corner Shop to get some Beans and bread (all they seemed to have) for tea
(Backpackings the life eh?)

I set the Alarm for 5am as I was convinced that if the weather was nice in the morning, the Sunrise would be great in terms of lighting for pictures of the Water Falls!

We woke up at 7 (So much for my alarm setting skills... )

We headed out at 8am towards the falls to get onto the First Maid of the Mist Tourist Boat trip into the falls from the Canadian Side. This was a great idea as the first sailing was at 9am and we skipped to the first boat with hardly a queue in sight. The boat was also virtually empty.

We were provided with the Obligatory Poncho (Made in China incidentally!) and headed out to the falls
(The American..sorry Bridal, and the Horse Shoe...sorry Canadian... ARRGGGHHHH !!!)

We got Soaked... however... the sun popped it's head out for a few seconds whilst we were getting drenched under the Horseshoe (or the whatever falls.... Feckin "Niagara" Falls... they're all going to be called "Niagara" falls from now on !)

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So... whilst under the "Niagara" falls (It doesn't matter which one!) we did manage to get to see a small rainbow (Although no pictures I'm afraid!)

The Boat ride was excellent and guess what....

It was cheap at only $6 each :)

Having completed our first obligatory task of the day we went for a coffee... and a dry off in Steph's Case!

During Cofee we'd decided to cross the Border into the US.

We walked up to the Rainbow Bridge (paid our 50c entry fee... which goes towards the upkeep of the bridge) and headed towards the US customs. Would we get in we thought as foot passangers.

No problems!

The Guy took one look at our passports and declared we had 90 days to come and go into and out of the US from Canada as many times as we wanted.

We stepped Into Niagara (New York County!)

Nothing changed really!

Same touristy things... big balloons, tall towers... casino's... however (and I never thought I'd say this) a little less commercialised than the Canadian side... WHAT ????

Come on America... what's wrong with you letting the Canadians BIg it UP better than you guys... We were both very surprised!

They even had walks through a forest (A real one too!) and briedges across onto Goat Island (over the river to the Island inbetween the American (Sorry) Niagara Falls!

Talk about confusing!

Anyway, we hatched our plan !

We were going to catch the Train across Canada and we were going to do this by purchasing a North American Rail Pass... however..... there was a catch.

Unbeknownst to our friends at Customs (We'd lied !!!!)

We'd really come over the border as the Rail Pass was $999 USD as opposed to $1150 CAD. This way we'd save ourselves $300 (150 Pounds by paying the 50 cents to cross the bridge!)

Backpacker in Charge of Logistics (Steph's new title) came up with that masterplan!

Genius I tell you.... pure Genius!

Anyway, we popped to the Amtrak (USA Rail) office and after some explanation of what we wanted to do, we managed to get our passes for $999 USD !!!!

Yeah !!!! $300 Smackerooneys saved!

Time for a drink! We popped to a 50's diner by the falls and had a beer and a burger! (well... we were back in the USA after all!)

We walked around the falls on the US side and then popped back over the bridge to Canada once again.

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Operation Rail Pass Discount had been a success!

That night we popped down (again) to "NIAGARA" falls to see "NIAGARA" Falls by night (They light them up... bit tacky to be honest!) and to see the "NIAGARA" Falls fireworks Show (After July 4th in Boston... don't think any firework display will ever be the same!) and had some tea in a nice restaurant (surrounded by about 10,000 fellow tourists!)

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"NIAGARA" Falls are really cool and well worth a visit to get the obligatory photo (Mine being with the Flag... but of course) However, Maybe the one night would be enough to see them and the Canadian side would be the better from a viewing point of view.

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WE got a taxi back to the hostel and hit the sack after a few beers on the Town. It's an early start tomorrow and a longer journey as we head back to Toronto and then up to Ottawa for a few days (The Capital of Canada) before we head back to Montreal to see Billy Connelly..... the Big Yin!!!

Posted by Taffski 19:58 Archived in Canada Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Toronto - 2

Sight Seeing

sunny 24 °C
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We Met with Dylan (Who is an old school pal originally from Amlwch and now living near Toronto) and I was in school with him. It was good to catch up and little bit. Pity we couldn't talk for longer, however, you never know we might be back down to Toronto later on in the trip....

We then walked around the City Again... Down to the Water Front... to Little India... Little Italy... Chinatown (Again... we like it) and finally back to the hostel. We popped into the Elephant and Castle Pub which was near the Hostel and then Steph phoned Clare and Duncan (who are friends of hers from Sheffiled) who also happened to be in Toronto this week (As Duncans' Sister live there)

We went out that night and got right royally plastered...no surprises there.

Steph had 2 "Chemical Dogs" aka Hot Dogs from the Street Vendors on the way home as she was in one of those really drunken moods.... I let her and helped her walk home afterwards (I knew she'd regret it in the morning anyway!)

Wakey WAKEY Steph !!! :)

How Rough is Steph today ;)

The Chemical Dogs had done their thing and combined with the Alcohol... we're not in the best of moods today to say the least :)

We Changed Rooms (which was a requirement of extending our stay at the hostel... which we still can't figure out to this day why!... what did it matter which bed we were in?)

Anyway, the day was to be allocated to yet another "Day of research" combined with plenty of water and as little Walking as possible.

It was pooring down outside anyway so Steph was let off lightly (I thought anyway!)

We did get out later that afternoon and bought a cheapy $2 umbrella (which is sort of hanging in there still....just!) and after a short walk around the Harbour Front jumped back on the couch in the hostel and watched DVD's for the remainder of the evening before hitting the sacks early!

No Slacking today... we were both up bright and early and after breakfast were off on a sight seeing day. Today was to be the day that there was an Indian Festival over on toronto Island.. so we caught the ferry service over and walked over the island. It was a lovely sunny day and the island was full of people enjoying their Sunday afternoon.

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We got a free lunch from the Hari Krishna's on the island (Which is what the festival turned out to be for) said Hari Hari... to a few people.... and then walked from one end of the Island to the Other along the Beaches and numerous Pathways.

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Luckily for us the Ferries run from both ends and the middle of the Island, so saving ourselves walking too much (and being a little bit lazy) we caught the ferrry back having spent about 3 hours on the islands having walked from end to end.

We walked back to the Hostel and chilled out (in yet Another changed room) However, this time we'd managed to snag ourselves one of only two double rooms in the hostel (and there was a TV in this one, so we got some snacks and chilled out!)

We checked out of the hostel and there wasn't availability for the Monday night (even though we'd been there nearly a week... but never mind!) and headed to another Hostel nearby (The Canadiana)

This was more of a "Hostel" than a hotel and as such we got more information on trips etc. and especially on visiting Niagara (which is where we'd decided to go next!)

Having checked into the hostel we popped to the Museum in Toronto (Which was free from 4:30pm to 6pm)

It was no where near long enough to see the whole thing (The Museum is massive) and after spending far too long looking at the Egyptian and Peru exhibitions (And getting told off for taking pictures and being made to delete them...whoops !) we only had about half an hour to whizz around the remainder of the Museum.

It looked a great place and if we return to Toronto... I think we'll actually pay to get in and spend all day there (which would be more than easily achieveable too!)

We got back to the Hostel and decided that since it was such a nice evening.. we'd head down (or rather up) the CN Tower.

We walked down and joined in the Queues to get to the First Level (Having spent $25.99 each to get to the first level which included another $9 to get to the Pod Level which was higher again)

Well.... it's not every day you get to go up the tallest Man Made Structure in the world!

It was immense and we were whizzed up in a glass elevator (Lift for us Brits!) shot up the side of the tower at 15mph (Which is quite quick let me tell you!)

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We reached the First Level and immediately got into line to get to the second Level. It was soon to be Sunset and we didn't want to miss it!

After 45 Minutes of waiting in line... we finally made it to the Pod Level. We were something stupid like 447metres (1465 Ft) above ground level, Although the Tower continues up to 553.33m (1,815 ft) at the very top!

The View was awesome and the Sun began to set as we got there....

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We watched the Sunset and then watched as Toronto "Switched itself on".

We'd decided not to eat in the restaurant as it was $42 for a main (The cheapest) so headed to a nearby bar and I got a load of Chicken Wings and Steph got a Thai Salad which, with a beer each, was still less than the price of the main in the CN Tower!

We Got Up early... and headed to the CN Tower again (To get the Required Photo!)

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I know I'm not smiling in the piccie, however, we'd rushed to get there and back before we had to check out of the hostel :)

We jumped on the bus to drive to Niagara Falls...... Which was to be our next Stop !

Here...maybe.....finally.... we'll decide what the heck we're finally going to do in Canada (or not) and more importantly... how we're going to do it. We might also get to see the most famous Waterfalls in the world also :)

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Posted by Taffski 20:51 Archived in Canada Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Toronto

Trying to work out what and where we're heading in the massive Continent!

sunny 22 °C
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After another "short" journey of 8 hours we arrived in Toronto!

Damn this country is big !

This is the Anglo-Version of Montreal and as such, there was very little French being spoken... which made it easier for us (Neanderthals that we are... we can't start getting our French and our Spanish confused that's for sure! I kept answering "Si" instead of "Oui" :)

We'd booked into the Clarence Castle Hostel (Which was supposed to be one of the best in Canada!)

After about a half hour walk there from the Bus Station, we were greeted by one of the nice owners (Dan) and went into our Dorm Room (Seperate Bunks!) The place was really nice and after the walk from the bus station we were glad to get our boots off and chill for a little while.

We liked where we were so we decided to book for the weekend also so that we'd have 6 days in which to finally decide what the heck we were going to do in this country (And Toronto looked and felt nice also!)

King Street (Which is one of the major entertainment streets in Downtown Toronto) was literally "round the corner" so we popped to get some tea and had an early night.

The Next day we had our free breakfast which included fresh Fruit and Cereals, so Steph was happy, and sat chatting to the owner and girlfriend until noon on the Balcony in the sun. The CN Tower was literally on our doorstep and towered over us as we garbled rubbish over about three cups of cofee.

Buzzing on the caffeine... we decided to walk around (what turned out to be almost all of Downtown Toronto!) We walked to China Town (Which was brilliant and reminded us both of Kowloon in Hong Kong) and walked past an Indian restaurant (which we popped into later that evening for tea!)

we're spoiling ourselves, however, it's not cheap (Beer is $5 or more) and always they add Tax onto the end of everything!

It's really annoying to see a beer in a menu for $5.50 and then when you get the bill it turns into $6 (or there abouts!) We're still not sure whether it's better or worse. It does let you know how much the Government is taking, however, it's really, really annoying when you're trying to budget!

We're having real problems on deciding what to do in Canada!

It's a massive country and we're struggling to work out how we travel around.

We originally thought about buying a car and driving.... however... this is a definate no brainer! (After hours of research! no help from the hostels or the Tourist Information places)

You can't get car insurance in Canada (unless you've got 10 years no claims in the UK AND a certificate from the Insurance company saying so.... a copy of which I carry around with me everywhere.....NOT!)

The bus is long and laborious (from Toronto to Vancouver you're sat on the same bus for 2 and a half days!) You can, however, get a bus pass which is valid for 30 or 60 days worth of travel (anywhere in Both Canada and the US) for $630 and $750 respectively.

Flights are expensive (well relative.....) No Ryan Air or Easy Jet over here, and the distances are much bigger (About $350 each one way from Toronto to Vancouver)

Which leaves Trains...... which are expensive (It's peak time here in Canada now!) No Shit Sherlock !!!

The Can-Rail pass costs $750 for 12 days travel in 30 (only in Canada!) However, after some reasearch, we think we might go for the North American Rail Pass which is $1,150 for unlimited travel for 30 days anywhere in North America..... however... it's expensive ($1,150 is 600 Pounds Sterling... which when you consider our Around the World Flight Ticket cost us only 850 Pounds is puching the barrel out a little bit too much!!!!)

Anyway, we think we're getting closer either way and think it's a toss up between the bus and the Train.

Flying is boring and you see nothing inbetween....

Went to China Town for Breakfast and had a coffee.

While we were sat down a group of kindergarten kids in bright orange jackets walked past us holding hands....... two by two !!!

This was swiftly followed up by a guy walking around with two Cats (real ones) standing on his shoulders.... strange....

Then two ladies pushing push chairs walked past.... nothing strange there expect that the push chairs had three babies in (EACH!) and they were back to back so they were like little baby Buses......

China Town in Toronto is certainly surreal! Unfortunately... no photos !! Typical... I'm going to start taking my camera everywhere from now on :)

Steph had read in the Lonely planet about the Panorama Lounge.

This was a bar with great views of the City and (as the Lonely Planet reliably assured us) had $5 beers.... which sounded great!

we walked into the bar, feeling a little bit underdressed, and sat at a table on the Balcony. Sure Enough the view was great and I set about trying to get some pictures with the new camera!

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The Beers came and so did the bill...... I wanted to Jump!

One beer and one White Wine.......guess how much ????

go on....guess ????

$19

NINETEEN FECKIN DOLLARS !!!!

PLUS TAX !!!!!

WHICH MADE IT $21.50!!!!!

THAT'S 10 pounds Sterling !!!

Even London isn't that expensive!

Neither's Bloody Norway for that matter.... NOR Anywhere else from what I can think !!! That must be one of the most expensive beers I think I've ever had !!

PLUS TIP........ PLUS FECKIN TIP !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

FECKIN TIP MY ARSE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

After some debate and having sipped my drink for about an hour we left.
It was a nice view... however... I'd recommend going there and getting a Tap Water!

Feckin Lonely Planet needs updating that's for sure!

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PS. we left a small tip
(well it wasn't the waitresses fault their prices were extortionate!)

Posted by Taffski 20:12 Archived in Canada Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

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