Winter Break 2017 Part 2

So I visited Scotland because I wanted to visit Scotland Esther. Just kidding, I wanted to travel around Scotland and see Esther. Scotland’s the only country in the British Isles I had not visited. I took advantage of free accommodation there because one of my best friends, Esther, currently stays there because she’s on exchange. It was a great time in Scotland and I felt that I’m really thankful that Esther kindly allowed me to stay at her flat and being so accommodating.

RE-UNITED!
The Edinburgh Christmas Market at Night

Edinburgh was where I spent most of my time in Scotland. I visited Glasgow once and travelled with Timberbush Tours up into a tiny portion of the highlands.

Edinburgh is truly a beautiful city. There are so many old buildings and you know, I love old buildings.

The Royal Mile
The view from Arthur’s Seat
On my way to Arthur’s Seat

On the third day in Scotland, I took a day-trip to a small part of the highlands with Timberbush Tours. Esther didn’t tag along because she’d already been to the places in the tour. The highlights of the trip were Loch Lomond and Stirling Castle but the quaint villages like Luss and Aberfoyle deserve a little mention too.

In front of Loch Lumond
The village of Luss
Stirling Castle

As you can tell, it was pretty snowy, cloudy, and gloomy that day…

View from Stirling Castle

Compared to Edinburgh, I’d say Glasgow is the more peculiar one. It’s a bit more modern and industrial in terms of architecture. I think I’d like to have spent more than a day in Glasgow but because I was only in Scotland for six days, I couldn’t.

Glasgow Cathedral
The Apse of the Glasgow Cathedral

Esther and I did a lot for one day in Glasgow. We went to the Glasgow Cathedral and the Glasgow Necropolis, which were really cool.

At the Glasgow Necropolis

Side note: It wasn’t Esther’s first time in Glasgow. She had gone with her friend before and didn’t like it. She was very bitter about it and nearly didn’t follow me to Glasgow. I’m glad she gave Glasgow a second chance and managed to like some parts of Glasgow. She really likes the University of Glasgow. Hehehe~

 

One of the buildings at the University of Glasgow
Glasgow City Hall

After returning from Glasgow that evening, we participated in the Hogmanay’s Torch Light Procession. It was very lit.

That night saw thousands upon thousands of torch holders strolling on the Royal Mile to get to Holyrood Park. The weather was not the best as Storm Dylan was building up on the North Sea – it was windy enough to blow out numerous participants’ lit torches, including mine multiple times.

At the torchlight procession with my torchlight
LIT.
My failed attempt at capturing a photo of the fireworks
They were projecting various words that were in the running for the #ScotWord which surrounded the question “What makes you most proud to live in Scotland?”

Despite the weather warning, there were people from all over the world participating in this event, according to a presenter.

Ushering 2018 with Hogmanay torch light procession was definitely a highlight (excuse the puns) of my trip.

The day after Hogmanay and my last full day in Scotland, we checked out Holyrood Palace, which is one of the many British monarchs’ official residence in Scotland, as well as the National Museum of Scotland.

At one of the gates to the Palace of Holyrood
Ruins of the Holyrood Abbey

Once I was done with that, we headed to the National Museum of Scotland.

PSA: You need a few days to completely explore the museum so please don’t try to explore it within five hours – it will drain you brain out.

The architecture of the building reminded me of a Victorian reform jail
Creepy af Millenium Clock

New Year’s Eve at the museum was amazing. Somehow in the main floor of the museum, there was a cèilidh and everyone was invited.

Thanks to the Scottish performer in full Scottish garb for taking a picture with me!

Our visit to the museum concluded my last full day in Scotland and the year 2017.

New Year’s Day welcomed us with flights to catch. Esther had to wake up super early for her flight at 8AM and I just tagged along to save cash on the Uber. We split paths after she checked in for her flight – she flew to Ottawa while I flew to Hamburg in Germany.

Nonetheless, I’m thankful to have spent my last week of 2017 with Esther and in Scotland.

Going to be working on my Winter Trip Part 3 next! Sorry for the delay. 😦

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Winter Break 2017 Part 2

Winter Break 2017 Part 1

I was writing this in the Boston Logan International Airport after a hectic day of travel awaiting my next flight to Ottawa, not directly, but to Toronto then to Ottawa…

Having at least two hours of layover for each flight, I thought I’d make it in time for all my flights – I was wrong. I left Hamburg for Reykjavik with a delayed flight, super worried that I wouldn’t make my next flight to Boston but it unfortunately, was delayed by two hours… One might think, “Oh, at least the delay gave you time to not miss your next flight,” that wasn’t the case. My direct flight from Boston to Ottawa was on-time, hence, I missed it and was forced to stay the night in Boston…

tired

I’ve been in transit for about 24 hours, and I didn’t think it’d take this long… I was supposed to arrive in Ottawa the night before at about nine p.m.. but because the of the “weather bomb,” that didn’t happen.

Nevertheless, this isn’t supposed about me complaining about my flight delays but I thought I’d get it out.

I had a great winter break and I really am grateful for that. I managed to go home, see and travel with family, then travel to Scotland and for the first time, land on the European continent and travel around a small part of Northern Germany. It was a break filled with great memories and experiences. It was tiring as well but I’d say worth it.
The three country I travelled to were: Japan, Scotland, and Germany. Each had their flair and “mehness.” I will be dividing my journey into three parts and there will be links at the bottom of this post leading you to them.

I wish I could say that I visited every corner of each country but I didn’t. I was only in Ishigaki Island in Japan, Edinburgh for the most part and tiny bit of the highlands in Scotland, and portions of northern Germany. One thing for sure is that despite only visiting a small chunk of these countries, I’m having a hard time compressing all the information I want to share.

First Stop: Ishigaki, Japan.

I’ve personally never heard of Ishigaki until my family and I decided that we’d be spending our time in Club Med, which is an all-inclusive resort hotel, for a family vacation.

Where is Ishigaki?

Ishigaki is an island part of the Okinawa prefecture, located about 300 km east of Taiwan and about 1,022 km southwest of Japan’s mainland.

The diet and agriculture in Ishigaki is relatively different than the rest of Japan due to its isolated location and warmer climate. The island has plenty of sugar cane plantations, lots of cattle for Ishigaki Beef, and salt.

What is Club Med?

ClubMed Kabira
Club Med Kabira from our hotel rooms. Photo credit to Swan Yoke Lim.

Club Med is a holiday resort provides a list of services and activities in a single package for one price. This means you pay a flat-rate for everything in the resort, from food, drinks (including most alcoholic drinks), activities, and events. There were somethings like scuba diving, massage and city tour packages that you had to pay extra if you wanted to experience it.

Club Med has various locations all around the world that cater to different interests, i.e.: a bunch of skiing resorts in the French Alps to a beach vacation like in Ishigaki or in Cherating, Malaysia.

We spent most of our time in the resort relaxing and took advantage of the activities available to us. It was a good time as we snorkelled, learned to wind surf on land, and ate lots of food.

There were some activities that we wanted to do but couldn’t because of the weather – it was ridiculously windy for the majority of our time there – and wind surfing on really choppy waves was not safe for beginners. The water was also a tad bit cold so we had to rent wetsuits (inclusive of the flat-rate) for snorkelling.

WindSurfing
Learning to Wind Surf. Photo credit to Swan Yoke Lim.

Just so you know, putting on a wetsuit is a chore because it’s so tight! It’s totally worth it because once you wear it, your whole body that’s covered by the wetsuit is completely warm.

Besides the activities, there were really cool Gentils Organisateurs (GOs) who were great at entertaining and attending to your requests. Most GOs in this location were Japanese and Indonesians but Club Med usually tries to gather a variety of people for each location. I even met a Korean GO who was super friendly and happy to speak to me in Korean.

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This is a really bad photo of me but this is of me and the Korean G.O.

I think it’s amazing how their jobs are to make us (aka Gentils Members/GMs) feel at home every day. I can’t imagine how much energy and emotional strength you’ve got to have. Each GM usually doesn’t stay for more than five days and so as a GO, you’ll have to get to know them in a short amount of time, which can be draining, then say bye to them so fast. I’m just thinking that if you’ve made such a good connection with your GMs, how often is it that you have to find yourself not being emotionally attached. But I assume that if it happens really quickly over the course of your career as a GO, you’d get used to it and avoid having to strong of a connection with your GMs. I also think that they get training on how to manage this. Anyway, I digressed.

I wanted to mention that this island is really beautiful and I’m glad my family and I spent one day driving around the island. I’d agree with my dad saying that’d this trip would be incomplete if we didn’t explore the island. We saw two lighthouses, a sea cave, and some amazing landscapes. I’ll let the pictures speak for itself.

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Euglena Mall
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Eating Hokkaido Melon Soft Serve
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Having Ishigaki Beef and other meats for lunch in the city
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Hirakubo Lighthouse
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Embracing the photoshoot spot

It’s a beautiful island and I felt that my visit to the city was lacking. I felt that besides the beaches and sea, the city is 100 per cent worth checking out. The businesses in the city are very quaint and there are a lot of things to eat there.

Winter Break 2017 Part 2 is coming up!

Winter Break 2017 Part 1

Quebec City: As close to Europe as I’m going to get

I’ve finally gotten myself to sit down and write about my favourite city in Canada, Quebec City. Without further ado, let’s begin!

For the past year, I have not gone to anywhere for a proper vacation (unless you count going home as one) and absolutely longed for one. Having heard the city’s resemblance to many western European countries such as France and England, I knew I had to visit Quebéc over the summer. It had all the old buildings and #ootd spots I ever wanted, wasn’t too far from Ottawa, and wasn’t extremely expensive (except for eating out).

Esther and I on one Parks Canada Outdoors Club trip. 😉

Esther and I planned this trip few months before July. I happily did all the logistics because I was way too excited to be going to Quebéc and was very specific on what I wanted to. Thankfully, Esther went along with it.

Day One

L-R: Our train from Ottawa to Quebec City; Quebec City’s Train Station

From day one of arriving into the city, everything “shook” us. Immediately after arriving and exiting the train station, we so how European or at least 17th century the city was. Everything look beautiful, including the train station, and was so aesthetically pleasing.We immediately checked into the hotel after a long 6-hour train ride and quickly hunted for places to eat. We didn’t really have many options, and somehow noticed the large amount of Irish pubs and Italian restaurants everywhere. Clearly not interested in any of those options, we opted to cook dinner and so we did before crashing to our beds.

Day Two

Having planned the entirety of the trip, we started our first official touristy adventure, bright and early, with the National Assembly of Quebéc/Hotel du Parlement. We had a lovely guided tour led by the charming Alexandre – Esther and I low-key fangirled because of his good looks great tour guiding skills.

L-R: Legislative Council Chamber; ceiling painting in Legislative Council Chamber; The National Assembly

Nevertheless, the tour was informational and well done. The building’s interior was more remarkable than the Parliament in Ottawa, except for its library. Among the little highlights we had during the tour was when Alexandre seemed impressed that I knew the name of Quebéc’s premier. Haha!

Le Parlementaire, the restaurant inside the building

After the Parliament, we walked around the area until we go to the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac (Château Frontenac, for short). It was a key destination for me because of the castle-like exterior and of course, our first stop to one of the Korean drama Goblin’s film site. Huehuehue! The Château is incredibly magnificent and walking along its terrace was so relaxing, especially with such a beautiful day. I took tons of photos, and taught Esther how to take nicer photos because I perfectionist and extra like that.

Views from the Terrace and a photo of us with the Château behind us

We frolicked around some more while looking for food before bumping into La Boutique de Noel (another Goblin film site). It was a very quaint and pretty Christmas store. So for all those for are obsessed with Christmas no matter the time of the year, I’d say check it out. I saw a few Koreans in there making reference to Goblin as well.

Mandatory photo outside of a Goblin film site, La Boutique de Noel

Basilique Cathedral Notra Dame was next door so we entered our first cathedral of the trip. It was for the most part, under construction, but somehow Esther didn’t realize that and asked me “What do you mean it’s under construction?”

“What do you mean it’s under construction?” – Esther Vininsky-Oakes, July 2017.

Hunting for lunch was definitely a struggle – there was little to no vegetarian options available. We tried Cafe Baude because it had a vege burger – the food sucked so bad. I was feeling so Gordon Ramsay-like that I’d wanted to cuss at everything. Esther of course, felt a lot more pissed than me. We were truly disappointed by the food although the waiter was really nice. Imo, just don’t go there.

Avoid at all cost!

To cleanse our souls palette, we returned to the Château’s terrace and had the ice cream Esther was massively craving. She specifically wanted ice cream from that store next to the Château because 10 years ago, she visited the exact same store and had amazing ice cream. It was nice and our moods were lifted.

Ice cream!
Me infront of the door that Ji Eun-Tak followed Kim Shin through (A Goblin filmsite)

Unsure of where to head next, we somehow stumbled upon our favourite street of all time – Rue Petit-du-Champlain (Goblin film site #3).

Rue Petit-du-Champlain

It’s a beautiful alley that fulfilled our dreams of visiting somewhere with a Parisian atmosphere. We just hung around here until the day ended because it was really gorgeous.

Day Three

Another must-visit we managed to check out was Le Citadelle du Quebéc where you’ll learn about the province’s military history and its Royal 22e Régiment, the Canadian Forces’ only French-language regular force infantry regiment. This fortress was built between 1820 and 1850, and is the largest British fortress built in North America.

Inside the Citadelle

There’s a guided tour available, which Esther and I found very informative.

We also managed to witness the Changing of the Guards at 10am, which is pretty unique for it’s the only one that conducts it in French and has a Tibetan goat named Batiste as its mascot. I swear the goat is definitely worth seeing in real life.

Clockwise: View from one of the tour stops and down there was another place they filmed Goblin; Esther and I; Changing of the Guard ceremony begins; Batiste the Tibetan Goat (22nd Regiment’s mascot )

We returned to Rue Petit-du-Champlain for an early lunch at Le Lapin Saute. Man – that place is so Parisian and of course, touristy. 😛

Esther and I at Le Lapin Saute

The whole environment was so extra with its ambience and service – I loved it. They serve rabbit meat hence the name “Le Lapin Saute,” which is also a play on words according to Esther. I even gave the waiter, Maxime, the biggest tip I’d ever given cause he was A+. I

Esther’s vegetarian pasta and my beef stew

Once lunch was done, we continued to stroll back and forth on the street because we love the street so much. We eventually made our way down to a quay on Corridor du Littoral. Esther took a break by doing some yoga (and reapply sunblock/sunscreen lotion ) while I enjoyed the breeze on the quay.

L-R: The Quay; view from the quay where you can see the Château and maybe Esther doing some yoga.

Towards the end of the day, we went for a guided tour of the Fortification of Quebec. Our tour guide was Arnaudt, and he was pretty funny. The tour was definitely worth your money – it’s $4.90 for a 90-minute guided tour. We got to see and enter amazing archaeological sites taken care by Parks Canada, including the fortification walls that’s right next to the Citadelle.

L-R: Remains of an old building, the view from one of the tour stops, and inside the fortifications that isn’t part of the Citadelle.

We eventually made our way back to our hostel but stopped occasionally to shop on Rue St. Jean. I’m glad we did because we stumbled upon the most charming second-hand book store called La Rêverie. It’s run by an old man who is super friendly and cute. I 100% recommend anyone to visit the bookstore, talk to him, and buy something there. The old man’s the sweetest old man I’ve ever talked to.

L-R: La Reverie, off Ru St. Jean; inside the bookstore; the grandpa talking to Esther.

Day Four

A little different start to the day as we didn’t actually walk to our destination – Montmorency Falls – as it was too far. It’s a beautiful place to go for a little stroll or hike. It’s about a 40-minute bus ride and was quite worth it.

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Parc de la Chute-Montmorency

There’s not much for me to say about it besides that it’s a very easy hike. It’s a great place to get out to if you’re sick of being in downtown Quebéc. It’ll still be crowded but not as crowded as the Château in the afternoon.

After a really hearty breakfast at L’Accent, we checked out the two most British landmarks in Quebéc – Holy Trinity Cathedral and Morrin Centre.

Breakfast was really good and filling for both me and Esther

The cathedral was pretty cool as it was the first Anglican church found and built outside of England. You also get to see some old golden treasures, which looked so beautiful. There’s not much in it but when we were there, there was a little market in its courtyard.

Inside the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity

One of the most fascinating visits for the trip was the Morrin Centre. There you’ll learn about the English-speaking population of Quebéc.

Morrin Centre

The Morrin Centre has a long and interesting history dating back to the 18th century. It’s definitely worth a visit and I highly recommend it. From what I remember, it was first a military barrack, a reform jail and a school (Yes, a jail became a school). Now, it stands as an active library and a heritage site.

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The jail section of the Morrin Centre

My words won’t give it justice to the complex and rich history the tour will give. It was the city’s common jail from 1812-1868, and in 1862, it became the Morrin College, Quebec City’s first English-language institute of higher education. The Morrin College was one of the earliest institution to allow women for higher learning in Canada, and had affiliations to McGill University.

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Clockwise: Ballroom; chemistry lab; the library; books in the library.

Day Five

It was raining and thankfully, we didn’t have to do much that day since we had super hectic four days already. We checked out Le Musée de Civilisation (the Museum of Civilization) because TripAdvisor gave it good reviews.

L-R: Like Cat and Dog Exhibition; Esther so dead; Spot the Esther

Out of the museums I’ve been to in Canada, I’d say this is one of the more memorable ones. They said really enlightening and engaging exhibitions such as one on dogs and cats, optical illusions, and the First Nations and Inuit community. Truly amazing and truly beautiful.

L-R: Observe – More than Meets the Eyes part 1; Observe – More than Meets the Eyes part 2;Dress of Nations

They were also having a TinTin exhibition but because it costed a little bit extra, we didn’t bother checking it out. From what I’ve seen in photos, they look cute.

Super excited to check out the museum!

For lunch, we had crêpes at Le Casse-Crêpe Breton. In my opinion, the crépes tasted average and I don’t think it’s worth the wait. Their Granny’s Hot Chocolate was pretty good though.

Clockwise: Granny’s Hot Chocolate; some crêpes

We returned to the Château later that day where I sent post cards out inside the Château like Eun-Tak did in Goblin, and had our final ice cream in the city.

Sending postcards! 😀
Yum, yum!

We also entered one of the free museums (Free with the Parks Canada Pass) underneath the Terrace. It’s one where you’ll get to be up close and personal with archaeological artifacts and ruins. You’ll also get to dress up as people from the 17th century, which is super cute.

To summarize this trip, it was truly amazing but a bit more on the pricey side when it came to food. Would I visit again? 100% yes. Esther already told me quite a few times that she wants to visit in the winter… So we’ll have to see when I can visit Quebec again and wait until Esther gets back from her exchange in Edinburgh.

Quebec City: As close to Europe as I’m going to get