explore canada

Photos: Quebec City part 2 and Montmorency Falls by Jessica Lee

I will let you in on a little secret. This isn't my first time visiting Quebec City. It's actually my third time.

The first time I was here was on a school field trip in grade 8- 10 years ago. I remember little bits and pieces; but mostly, I enjoy looking back in fondness, walking the same spots I walked 10 years ago and seeing how much I've grown and changed.

My priorities as a 13-year-old and now as a 23-year-old are dramatically different. I didn't get to see most of Quebec City last time because I spent a disproportionate amount of my free time shopping in the stores. 

I still love looking at cool stuff, but these days, I've committed to minimalism (having as little stuff as possible to enjoy my day), and since I've been to so many touristy places, I don't get sucked into the traps anymore.

These days, I like to experience the vibe of a destination, enjoy the food and admire the architecture. Maybe meet a local while I'm at it. I'm all about slow travel. Sometimes, I will sit down at a beautiful view for hours, or spend my day at a cafe reading a book.

We went as slowly as we could through Quebec City, given that we didn't have a lot of time. We wandered the city, headed to the Plains of Abraham, La Citadelle, and the most photographed hotel in the world, Chateau Frontenac. We stopped for ice cream and a beavertail, which is a Canadian fried dough pastry that is absolutely delicious and one of my guilty pleasures. Later, we drove to Montmorency Falls and topped off our trip with a little shopping at Simons, a Quebec department store.

This is me trying to recreate an old photo from the top of the Plains of Abraham where Britain and France fought years ago and ended up creating Canada. Not that they had cameras in 1759, nor that many buildings in the background, or even concrete. But it's really cool to know that you're standing at a place with so much important history.

The view from the top of the hill is also easy on the eyes in an understated way.

Back in the Old City, I tried to capture scenes of the city. This is what Quebec City looks like on a summer's day in 2014. Leisurely, relaxed, but full of bustling tourist energy.

Calgary is not for cowards by Jessica Lee

I met up with my friend Conrad in Calgary, Alberta, and proceeded to explore the city.

After a hearty breakfast at a local joint, our first stop was grabbing coffees from Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters, which is a local chain in Calgary. I had been involved in the background with the Canadian Barista Championships since 2011 and had wanted to try a cappuccino made by the the 2012 National champion, Jeremy Ho, who works there.

Unfortunately, we didn't find out which location he was working at, but the cappuccino I had that day was still pretty good.

I also really enjoyed the interior design inside. 

Sometimes, people will say that the design of a restaurant doesn't matter because the food should be the focus, but I don't think it's true. I believe that atmosphere changes your whole experience of how you perceive your coffee. Many times, I will revisit a favourite coffee shop because I enjoyed my experience sitting inside, rather than because I really liked the coffee. There's a whole science behind the marketing of coffee, which some companies such as Starbucks has managed to figure out (enough for a whole other blog post!)

After our caffeine fix, we went to Calgary's Olympic Park. I had been wanting to go to the park for some time now, after first seeing the ski jump from the highway while driving by on my trip to Banff, then hearing about the park through colleagues.

Besides being the place to go to for adrenaline-pumping activities such as bobsledding, mountain biking, luge or ziplining, Calgary's Olympic Park is also the training ground for serious Canadian Olympic athletes. The bus driver who drove us to the activity spots is actually an Olympic coach in the winter time, but passes his time during the summer by driving tourists around.

We decided to go down the zipline, which is the fastest in North America (140 km/hr), and then do a bobsled ride.

The zipline is at the top of the ski jump, which really freaked me out not because I'm scared of heights- but because I'm afraid of the feeling of falling. I definitely am not the type that does well on roller coasters.

Conrad said he doesn't like the feeling of falling either, but he says doesn't think about his fear and just does whatever he needs to do, which is how he's able to do so many things. And so, I didn't think about my fear of falling and jumped. For the first time, falling felt fantastic.

I plan to adopt Conrad's theory of "doing" rather than over thinking everything. Maybe one day I will become fearless!

We then headed up to the bobsled track. I wasn't too worried about bobsledding after having just experienced the zipline.

Since there wasn't snow, which is usually how bobsledding is done, they had wheels on the bobsled. The speeds we went were the same as if there was ice, just a little bumpier. We had a driver go down the track with us, and he was responsible for all the turns and for making sure accidents didn't happen.

The G-force on the ride down was incredible (4G forces and 100/km/hr). It didn't feel like pain, but it wasn't entirely comfortable either. I was just glad when it was over. Afterwards, I chatted with the driver and he said he wasn't able to drive bobsleds every day because of all the G-force, which is bad for one's body. It's interesting what sacrifices people will make for a fun, adrenaline-inducing job; or even for a sport. It's definitely a big commitment.

Saskatoon through photos part 1 by Jessica Lee

I've been in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for about a week. It's a nice, pleasant city but at the same time, there's not much to do here.

This is what it looked like driving in on a Greyhound from the east:

I arrived at 7 am, just in time for breakfast. For once, I was part of the early morning breakfast club.

I found my way to Poached Breakfast Bistro and was impressed by the modern furnishings. I wasn't sure what to expect from Saskatoon, but this breakfast place could have been any other lovely cafe in Toronto with its quality.

I suppose I was expecting more greasy spoon diners and a "country" feel.

I took a photo of my breakfast which included the most delicious bacon I've ever tasted. It was doused in maple syrup and garnished with pecans and spice, then baked in the oven until perfectly soft but cooked.

After breakfast, I dragged my luggage to the place I would be staying. It was over a half hour walk, but since I packed light, it was manageable and I got to see the city at a walking pace.

Here is the Saskatchewan River. It's one of the the most famous landmarks in Saskatoon.

Here is what a "normal" street looks like.

Saskatoon is more like a suburb than a city. In general, it's not extremely walkable since things are far apart from each other, but still most things are closer together than when I was Detroit.

There isn't much to do around town but there are some really cool houses painted in fun colours.

Check this out:

I like the colour scheme of this one too.

Some of the houses are extremely bold:

I tried to figure out why many of the houses are painted in such bold colours. Maybe it's a Saskatoon thing?

My theory is that people are bored here and they've taken to customizing their homes. This theory is also shaped from the fact that there are many customized vintage cars here as well, so perhaps making things look customized is a hobby in Saskatoon since there really isn't much to do in this town.

One thing Saskatoon is known for however is its berries.

We headed to the Sunday Farmer's Market to take a look:

This juice is made from Seabuckthorn berries.

I've never heard of such a thing in my entire life, but I got to taste a sample and it's extremely sour. But interesting. The berries are bright orange.

Anyway, I do hope that Saskatoon has more to offer. But in the mean time, I'll leave you with some photos: