Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Château Frontenac

Château Frontenac is an icon of Québec City. It rambles across the highest point of Vieux-Québec and is visible from all over town.

Its very presence creates a focal point for activity and excitement in Vieux-Québec.

While we were in town there was an exhibit of  Salvador Dalí artwork in the Château Frontenac.

We can only afford to eat crème glacée there. Maybe next time.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Terrasse Dufferin

Terrasse Dufferin is an expansive wood plank walkway that wraps around the Château Frontenac towards the Citadelle, overlooking the St. Lawrence River. It's full of gazebos and benches and interesting people. I took my walk here each morning.

Beneath sections of the terrace are the remains of Saint Louis Forts as well as Château Saint-Louis, residence for French and British Governors. Admission is free.

The wikipedia article is here.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Old Quebec Airbnb

This was our first Airbnb experience and we were thrilled.

Old Quebec Airbnb was really nice. It was built in 1654 but has been remodeled since then. The millwork is awesome. The door locks are still the old metal latches. Our apartment was on the 2nd floor (US counting) and there's one above it. We heard occasional footsteps and noises but there was never a problem. The first night we kept hearing a irregular beeping like a truck backing up. Turns out it was the Québec flag squeaking on its post just outside our window.

You can park in the Hôtel de Ville parking garage but the entrance to was hard to find as the street (Rue Pierre Oliver Chauveau) was closed (just drive around the signs). When you exit the garage at the Rue des Jardins exit you are directly across the street from the apartment.

The Airbnb host owns a couple of shops downstairs, a gift shop (Le Sachem) and a coffee shop (La Maison Smith). The coffee shop also has wonderful pastries and we had breakfast there each morning.

Just down the street was a little neighborhood grocery (Epicerie Richard, 15, Rue du fort) that has enough of a selection to get you by. It also looks so typically Québec.

All the appliances were fresh stainless. There wasn't a dishwasher nor an ice maker but we weren't planning on washing dishes anyway. The washer and dryer were nice to have and we used them.

The Wi-Fi is the gift shop's business network so its speed is good, 10+ Mbps both ways, but only reaches the living room. In the bedroom you can sometimes get the guest network from the coffee shop.

We visited in late August and the temperatures were never above the high 60s. On one day and night the apartment was muggy. There is a small section of each window that will open and there are fans.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


We've been to Quebec City several times before and thoroughly enjoyed it each time. For this trip we had a couple of "favorite" things to do but there we had some new things on our list as well.

In spite of the negative press we had great flights on United. Budget even upgraded us for free to get us a car with a built-in GPS.

We always stay in Vieux-Québec, the old walled city. We tried an Airbnb (Old Quebec) for the first time. Built in 1654, it was just across the street from Hôtel de Ville (town hall). The host has a coffee shop (La Maison Smith) with pastries next door and a gift shop downstairs (Le Sachem).

I took my morning walks on Terrasse Dufferin, just up the hill beyond the incredible Château Frontenac.

Vieux-Québec is full of monuments. Some are surrounded with gorgeous flowers. Some are used by street entertainers. Some are just pretty.

The night we arrived it was raining so we ducked into the first pub we saw, Pub St-Patrick. That was not a mistake.

Just a block in the other direction is Le Chic Shack which came highly recommended. It was amazing.

Two blocks away was one of our favorite restaurants, Aux Anciens Canadiens.

On the way to Aux Anciens Canadiens was a little grocery store, Epicerie Richard, that made us feel like we were in Paris.

Like any European city Vieux-Québec is full of churches that are open and alive. We dropped in several and stumbled on an organ concert.

Quartier Petit Champlain is the lower part of Vieux-Québec and best reached via the Funiculaire, reminiscent of several I've ridden in France.

La Citadelle de Québec is active military installation and the official residence of the Governor General of Canada. We got to watch the Grands Feux Loto-Québec fireworks from there.

On the way to the Citadelle you pass an old tree with a cannonball entwined in its roots.

We took a day trip to Baie-Saint-Paul, about an hour's drive out the St. Lawrence. It is known for its art galleries, shops and restaurants.

On the way back to town we made an unplanned detour by Chute-Montmorency and then explored Île d'Orléans.

We topped off (literally) our visit with a sunset dinner at Ciel, a revolving restaurant.

This won't be our last trip to Quebec City.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ireland Dashcam

I don't know how I overlooked adding my Ireland dashcam videos to this blog.

If you want to know how I did this here is my blog on the camera itself.

Here's a sample. Don't worry. I've bleeped out the expletives.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Huntsville Space Center

We stopped by the Huntsville Space Center on our return leg from Chattanooga. My first impression was that there was a SR-71 Blackbird out front. It wasn't a Blackbird but an A-12 OXCART which was a predecessor to the Blackbird. Still pretty interesting.

There are 2 buildings open to the public. The first one has the gift shop and ticket counter. There is an IMAX that we didn't visit. Generally the first building seems somewhat rambling. The second building is the Saturn V Hall and is centered around a Saturn V on its side. To get from the first building to the have to go through the first building and walk across the Rocket Park which includes a vertical Saturn V.. There are good photo ops in the Rocket Park as you walk.

You could spend hours in the Saturn V Hall. Everywhere there are interactive exhibits, videos and gadgets to see and play with.

We timed it so we could have lunch there. This facility is a working research center and there are a number of full time employees so they have a nice snack bar that even has a salad bar.

We spent about 2 hours including lunch but could have made an entire day of it.

Their web site is here and the TripAdvisor reviews are here.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Tennessee Valley Railroad

It was a cool weekend in Chattanooga so we were looking for warm activities. The depot is only 10 minutes from downtown.

The area surrounding the depot is full of engines and train cars.

When we arrived the steam engine was nearby and fired up giving off smoke and steam. What an exciting sight. I took our granddaughter to stand in front of it for a picture.

The depot is authentic and fun to just browse around in. There is a nice gift shop and a sandwich bar.

We took the 12:05 Missionary Ridge Local that lasted 55-60 minutes. We called ahead and they said we could buy sandwiches there and take them on the train.

However the 60 minute trip is really in 3 segments: an outbound trip for about 15 minutes, a turntable demonstration and shop tour for about 15 minutes and an inbound trip for another 15 minutes.

We didn't have time to eat before we arrived at the end station and were told to get off the train. In actuality you don't have to get off unless you want to see the turntable demonstration and the shop tour.

I would encourage taking the turntable demonstration and the shop tour and eat elsewhere.

Their web site is here and the TripAdvisor reviews are here.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Tennessee Aquarium

This is an incredible aquarium. I just want to share a tip or two to help others.

We visited with our daughter and her 2 children, 8 years old and 11 months old, so we were using a stroller. My wife and I took the 8 year old up the loooong escalator and my daughter and the 11 month old took the elevator.

The issue is that the route starts at the TOP of the aquarium and flows downward. This is fine but the elevator had stops at each level and didn't indicate to my daughter where to START.

So she got off on the 2nd level and was dumped into the middle of the route. She called me and we figured out what had happened to her. She opposed the traffic to rendezvous with us near the top.

While it appears that there is a zig-zag ramp from the top to the bottom the route actually diverts into galleries that wrap around the central core.

The whole aquarium is DARK and the intended route is poorly marked. The route markings aren't normally so important but were with our confusion.

Their web site is here and the TripAdvisor reviews are here.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

DoubleTree Chattanooga

We spent 3 nights here in early March 2017. The rack rate was almost $400 for a suite but a phone call got it down to $209! The location is perfect, close by the Tennessee Aquarium and the Creative Discovery Museum.

Valet parking was $15 per day and the valet staff was exceptional.

The bartender in the lobby bar bent over backwards to help with milk for our toddler.

But they drop the ball on the details.

The clock in each bedroom was wrong and had a screwed down cover over the Time Set button.

The lamp between the beds in one room didn't work at all.

The thermostats were flaky, i.e. the technique to change the temperature wasn't intuitive.

The cable box in one room didn't work. After 2 days I discovered it was just unplugged from the power.

All of these could have been identified by housekeeping in less than a minute and readily corrected by housekeeping or maintenance. They just didn't care.

Their web site is here and the TripAdvisor reviews are here.