1997: Europe 2004: Canada/UK


Friday 14 May

After a grueling day (almost 24 hours in fact) spent either in an airport or in the air, I finally reached Montreal. At first, things did not appear that well because it was pouring down in buckets as I was coming out of the airport.

After a short rest in my hotel, I ventured into the night scenes of Montreal. Or, more specifically, I went to my first milonga, at Dancing Mocha Joe. Actually I was a little tired so I did not dance at all, but it was wonderful to be bathed in the Tango music – even if it was after a 20-minute walk from the nearest Metro station…

Saturday 15 May

On Saturday morning, this little exchange took place.

As I set out to discover Montreal, a car drove next to me and stopped. The driver, a man, said, “Hi, I am Italian. Do you know where xxx is…?”

In reply, I said, “Sorry, but I am a tourist…”

“Oh, a tourist…”??

I think that pretty much killed the whole conversation. Which brings to mind: since when do we introduce ourselves by the categories we belong to?? I mean, instead of using names? :wink:

Sunday 16 May

Joined a half-day city tour today.

First impressions of people of Montreal? Extremely friendly, very helpful and courteous. From the pedestrians on the street offering directions, to the helpful and patient shop assistants, up till now, I have had nothing but favourable impressions.

The city itself reminds me very much of my hometown, Melbourne. There are pockets with intense activities: either cultural events, or concerts for teenagers, or just bars, or caf�s, and there are heritage buildings which portray the historical roots of the city.

Some shots of the city of Montreal (opens a new window)

17-21 May

This week is the ICASSP 2004 Conference, which is the main reason for me being here, so not much to tell really.

Apart from the technical meetings – which I have learnt a thing or two from, I am glad for the opportunity to meet up with old friends again. For example, there was the friend from ANU whom I last saw in Paris (during my previous trip) as well as a senior who is now working in London, at Imperial College. Naturally, through them and other colleagues, I was able to make more professional acquaintances.

A couple of observations of social behaviour at the Metro stations here. Firstly, people waiting at the platforms automatically make way for the alighting passengers. Secondly, when on the escalators, again, there is a unspoken convention of standing to the right-hand side to allow people to move through. I think Singapore or Singaporeans have a lot to learn from people of Montreal in this regard. No rules or “guidance” are really necessary – just some consideration for others and common courtesy.

There was a slightly amusing incident two days ago (18 May). As I was coming out of the Metro station, the elderly gentleman in front of me picked up a copy of the free newspaper they have at all stations. He promptly sized up the newspapers against his head. A little puzzled, I continued. Then I realised what the purpose of incomprehensible actions: it was raining that morning, and he was going to use it as a shade… :-)

Photos taken on St Helen’s Island (opens a new window)

1997: Europe 2004: Canada/UK

Pre-trip planning

Tuesday 11 May

It seems my trip plannings are taking place nearer and nearer to the date of departure with each trip!

In two days’ time, I will be on-board a flight to Montreal, Canada, via London. After the week-long conference, I intend to spend a few days at Prince Edward Island, followed by a couple of nights in Quebec City. Then it’s on to London for a few days before returning to Singapore.

That’s the plan as of now in any case. However, only the accommodation and the dates for the conference and the London leg have been fixed…

Wednesday 12 May

Tentatively, my current itinerary is:

  1. In Montreal for a conference until 22 May. This is where I will be staying.
  2. Catch an overnight train to Prince Edward Island and spend three nights there.
  3. Return to Quebec City on 26 May – by overnight train again – and spend a night there.
  4. Return to Montreal and leave for London on 28 May.
  5. Head back to Singapore on 1 June.

Nice plan, isn’t it. The problem is in the execution… :-)

The schedules for the trains and connecting buses, as well as information for accommodation were found via the official Prince Edward Island website.

Just made a few inquiries for some accommodation on Prince Edward Island. They are all clustered around Charlottetown, because that is where I will get dropped off by the bus. The choices are (in order of preference): City Gardens B&B, Heart’s Content B&B, Gallant’s Tourist Home, Spillett House and Taste of Home B&B. Some very interesting ideas for once I am on Prince Edward Island can be seen here: Discover Holidays and Prince Edward Tours.

Fortunately, the London leg has been taken cared of by my friend there.

As for my photography needs, I will be bringing my newly acquired Canon Powershot A80. This is equipped with a 256MB Compact Flash card, and a 32MB backup. I plan to take photos at the maximum resolution but only at the second least compression to conserve space: 256+32MB amounts to close to 8 rolls of 36-exposures.

In hindsight, perhaps I should have just put up with the bulkier SLR!? Throughout the course this trip, I am finding that it is relatively easy to come up against limitations in this digital (and perhaps many others) camera. For example, photos are often underexposed when shot from a shadowy location, looking towards brighter areas; secondly, slight contrast can really throw off the automatic exposure.

1997: Europe


Map of Italy

View Larger Map

Cities visited: Rome, Venice & Florence


To photos (opens a new window)


To photos (opens a new window)


To photos (opens a new window)

1997: Europe


Map of Switzerland

Cities visited: Zurich & Lucerne


Zurich was intended to be a brief stop-over on the way to Italy, so I only stayed for 2 full days (but only 1 night). Arriving at around 5am on an overnight train from Paris, I was surprisingly fresh after the trip. Had a chat with an South-African girl who had a brief stint as nanny in UK, toured in France (went to Mont-St-Michel!) for a bit and going somewhere else (can’t remember…) on the train.

Since I had little time, I joined a half-day city tour for the first day, and a day tour for the second day.


To photos (opens a new window)

1997: Europe


Map of France

View Larger Map

Cities visited: Paris, Rennes, Tours


I arrived in Paris a few days before Bastille Day, the French National Day, and it was full of people. Mostly tourists, like myself. I must say, staying at a youth hostel for about AU$12 a night was a good way to travel, because. Naturally at a place like that, you do need to keep your wits about you, like making use of the night safe for valuables, and taking extra precautions when taking the subway, etc.

Paris is really a city of romance! As I came into the courtyard in front of the easily identified glass pyramid of the Louvre Gallery, there were people having a nice peck. Long and deep too! What’s more, forget about passionate teenagers, these are people of my parents’ age!

This is also a city full of Art Galleries, big and small. From the world-famous Louvre and the Mus�e d’Orsay, to the much smaller but no less obscure ones like the Rodin Museum. It’s a paradise for art lovers. But a word of caution: don’t get overdosed by all the information!

Coming soon:

However, for me the question was: Where can I find Monet? (and other Impressionists as well).

Champs-Elys�es Avenue

To photos (opens a new window)


I have to be honest and say that I really had never heard of this place before I planned for this trip. In fact, had my friend Lorenzo (from Rome) not suggested Tours, I would have missed out on something really wonderful! In fact, I had initially wanted to spend more time in Switzerland, but as he said, there is nothing but “cows, mountains and chocolates” – his words, not mine – I, in hindsight, quite wisely followed his advice.

What are the main attractions here? Well, lots and lots of medieval castles and chateaus! Most (mainly the ones belonging to the royal family directly), such as Chambord and Amboise, have been turned into museums, while some (mainly the properties of prominent officials in the French court) are still in private hands – but portions are open to the public, such as Cheverny with its large pack of hunting dogs. If you are a lover of history, this is definitely the place to be. The Loire Valley is the home to Leonardo da Vinci in the final days of his life; Catherine Medici of the Medici family in relation to the Renaissance movement was also active in this area. The end of the prominence of this region also marked the shift of royal power to Paris.

Finally, to get around, from personal experience it was quite easily to find a comfortable hotel for about AU$15 per night, shared bathroom, very close to the station. There were many day-tours to the various castles to choose from; Amboise itself is reachable by train, although you should always check the departure time of the last train.

To photos (opens a new window)