I had heard of a few failed tries of Referendum in Canada to determine whatever Quebec, a French speaking province, should secede from Canada and become an independent state. We were told that French is the primary language in Quebec; therefore, we brought a French-English dictionary with us on the trip. I know the dictionary was not a necessity but it would be fun to learn a few words and it would also show that I tried to communicate in the native language there, always a bonus when engaging the locals.

When we entered the Quebec Province from New Brunswick, we noticed right away the bilingual signs we had seen the last couple of weeks turned into French-only signs. Luckily I have been to France a few times and still remembered some basic French words pertaining to driving. We stopped at the 1st Welcome Center to get some information and were greeted with “Bonjour”. Yes, we were definitely in a foreign country now. I asked for a carte but he didn’t seem to understand me. We soon switched to English and he told me that they had a few maps for sale there. I didn’t expect it as we were able to get many free maps and tourist booklets at New Brunswick, PEI and Nova Scotia. My first impression was that tourism probably wasn’t important to Quebec or perhaps because I didn’t speak French.Outdoor Cafe At Quebec City

We arrived at Quebec City and spent a few hours there. The city had a European flavor: cobblestone streets, outdoor cafe, stone buildings and French signs. We didn’t know anything about Quebec City, where to go and what to see, and we didn’t have any map there so we were driving partially blind except for my GPS. Whenever we go to a big city, our instinct is always go to the old town and the old town is usually right next to a river. We followed that rule and soon knew we were in the right place. Quebec Lower TownLe Chateau Frontenac at Quebec CityWe saw the famous Le Chateau Frontenac (see the picture Kadia took of us with Le Chateau Frontenac in the background) and window-shopped at the Basse-Ville (Lower Town). We also walked around the Parc des Champs de Bataille. It was an interesting city, definitely worth to go back to, but not in winter though as we learned that Quebec City can get very cold in the winter (like -20° C). But there is the famous Winter Festival (Carnaval de Québec). Maybe we will brave the weather but hopefully it will still be a friendly country the next time we visit.


Susan and I have always liked photography.  So it was natural for us to decide how many cameras to take for the trip.  Susan’s 18-month-old Olympus C5060 was behaving strangely: mode settings were no longer correct.  When it was on playback setting, it might behave as it was on auto setting for taking picture; when it was on Shutter priority mode sometimes, it might behave as on playback mode.  It was never consistent either and sometimes it just wouldn’t work.  It had to be some software glitch and given that it was out of warranty and the cost of repairing would probably match if not exceed a new camera, we decided that it would be wise to get a new camera.  One of the neat features we liked about the C5060 was its vari-angle screen that allowed pictures been taken at weird angles without us getting into uncomfortable positions.  That was one of the major features we looked for when searching for a new camera.  Finally we decided on Canon Powershot A610 for that feature and also for 5MP.  We didn’t want to pay for more pixels when we would know we most likely wouldn’t need that many pixels.

KadiaI already had two cameras: Canon Powershot SD450 and Canon Digital Rebel XT.  I used the SD450 most often as it is small and can easily slip into my pocket. I took it anywhere I went, whether it was hiking, skiing, biking or just walking around.  It also came in handy whenever I wanted to stay inconspicuous as opposed to the Rebel that just screamed for attention. The Rebel XT is a great camera.  It is fast and versatile; I could never have captured some great pictures of my kids if not for its short shutter lag. Also with Rebel XT, I can control the depth of field to achieve the desired effect.  See the example on the right.

I was leaning toward just taking my SD450 as I didn’t like to take too many things (Rebel with its many lenses, filters and a tripod.)  A lot of time when we went hiking, I only took the SD450 because I usually had 45 lbs of loads already with Kadia, a child carrier, water and food.  My friend, Thomas, talked me out of it as it was a once-a-lifetime opportunity to take pictures and I shouldn’t miss it.  I am glad he did.  As it turned out, although I didn’t take a lot of pictures with the Rebel the 1st month on the trip, my SD450 screen cracked about 50 days into the trip.  Although it can still be used via its tiny viewfinder, it became difficult as most functions had to be selected via the screen.  Without the screen, it became a guessing game, a big draw back of current menu driven cameras. With another 62 days more to go, I would be very upset if I didn’t have another camera.  The SD450 was sent back and got repaired under warranty after we got home 2 months later.

Quebec City, Fairmont Le Chateau FrontenacAlthough Rebel XT is great but it is not a great camera for kids as it can only be used via the viewfinder.  For example, Kadia (3 1/2 years old) took a picture of us with Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac using the SD450 (see the picture on the left).  She would not be able to do it with the Rebel. Digital cameras saved us thousands of dollars as we probably took 20,000+ pictures.  Even with cheap Walmart developing cost, that amount of traditional pictures would have cost us 4 to 5 thousand dollars to develop.  Don’t leave home without it/them.  Although we took our Canon ZR80 camcorder which we used a lot on our 2 months honeymoon trip around the world a few years ago, we didn’t use it much this time as both SD450 and A610 can take 640×480 movies but at a cost of memory storage.   Luckily, we brought laptops but those will be the topic for the next post.