Wild, Colorful, Newfoundland

 

 

It is no secret that Adam and I love the ocean, although for completely different reasons. Adam loves to lie on the beach and soak up the sun, while I love getting in the water regardless of how cold it might be. With this in mind along with the fact that Adam wanted to go someplace neither of us had ever been this year, we agreed to spend one week of our Summer vacation in Newfoundland.

Adam and I have now been to all three Maritime provinces and have enjoyed all of them immensely with Newfoundland, we discovered, being the most natural, untamed maritime province. It is the least densely populated with only 1.5 inhabitants per square kilometer. When you take into account the size of the province (405,212 sq. kms), you can get a bit of a feel for how rural a place it is, especially when you know that most of the island’s inhabitants live in the capital city of St. John’s. So if you are going to visit Newfoundland and want to see more than St. John’s and its immediate area, you need to enjoy driving. Adam and I rented an SUV for our one week stay and by the time we returned it I had driven a solid 2000 kilometers and we only visited the Avalon Peninsula, which is the Northeast and Southeast of the province.

How was the weather, you might be wondering? The weather in Newfoundland is notoriously difficult to predict and can change very suddenly no matter which part of the province you are in. Typically, if it is not nice in your neck of the woods, it will be sunny about an hour up the road. Just check the radar and head to where it is clear. We got a bit of everything while we were in Newfoundland, including some lovely, sunny, 30 degree (celsius) days where we went to the beach and got a tan. What we got the most though was, yes, fog, very, very dense fog. I can guarantee you will encounter fog several times a day, every day in Newfoundland and if it is a rainy day you will have to contend with that as well. If you want to learn more about the geography of Newfoundland and what makes it so foggy, you can read this Wikipedia article. Suffice it say, not only do you have to not mind driving if you want to have fun in Newfoundland, you also have to be a fairly relaxed driver, no matter the weather. I do not recommend driving at night if you can avoid it, regardless of how confident you are behind the wheel because on top of the dense fog, you may also encounter a moose. There are roughly 150 000 of them in the province and while we did not encounter a single one during our week-long vacation, there are on average 600 moose vs. car collisions in Newfoundland every year. Most of them are not fatal for humans, however the same cannot be said for their cars or the poor moose which is why many Newfoundlanders prefer not to drive at night. If you do have to drive at night and catch up to another driver, stay behind them as driving in groups is safer.

I wholeheartedly recommend visiting Newfoundland if you have the chance, it is an absolutely beautiful, peaceful province and Newfoundlanders are a very kind and welcoming bunch who will be happy to help you enjoy your stay in any way they can. If you want to get the most out of you trip to this unique province, I would recommend visiting as many wildlife and nature reserves as you can. I thoroughly enjoyed Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve and we both absolutely loved our whale and birdwatching tour with O’Brien’s Boat Tours. The historic town of Trinity was another of our favorites, we visited there twice and both times we ate at the Trinity Coffee Company and Mercantile. Trinity is also a fabulous place to shop for locally made arts and crafts for yourself or as a gift for friends and family. Finally, do not pass up on enjoying the view from the cliffs of Bonavista and keep an eye out for puffins of whales, we saw plenty of them!

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Windsor Castle

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I know, I know, I promised I would be back with a post about Versailles next, but I figured that with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s big day tomorrow posting a few photos of Windsor Castle would be a nice treat.

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The town of Windsor was a lovely place to stay and is actually quite small. You can walk around the entire place in about an hour and when you’ve done that, I recommend crossing the bridge to Eton, which is lovely as well and less crowded and touristy than Windsor. When Adam and I were in Windsor in April there was already quite a bit of Royal Wedding hype going on with many souvenir shop windows filled with flags, mugs and tea towels with Harry and Meghan printed on them, not to mention bobble head figurines…

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Our flat was just around the corner from the main gates of Windsor Castle and its famous Long Walk. I took the above photo from about halfway along the walk and got quite muddy doing it. As you can see, it is normally a very quiet place, barring the sound of planes roaring in and out of Heathrow, which is only about a 20 minute drive away. Honestly though, if you don’t pay attention to the planes, you eventually forget about them, but this is coming from a girl who grew up in an area below a flight path so I tune planes out pretty easily.

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As for the castle and St. George’s Chapel, they are a real treat to visit. Access is easy, especially if you buy your tickets ahead of time and the security clearance process is very smooth. You cannot take any photos inside the castle or chapel in order to protect their contents and to keep people moving along. While we were disappointed by this at first, we honestly appreciated our visit far more without having to think of taking photos of everything. There are no limits to the photos you can take outside the buildings though and yes, I got some photos of the Queen’s famous guards. These soldiers are Irish Guards, you can tell by their buttons which are in groups of four and the blue plumes on the right hand side of their caps.

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All in all, we were thrilled by our two night stay in Windsor and are considering using the town as our base during our next visit to England since its location between Heathrow and London is so convenient. Also, rental rates for apartments and hotels are much more affordable in Windsor than they are in London. Do be aware though that if London is your main goal, it is at least a 45 minute to one hour train ride away depending on the time of day and I do not recommend renting a car and driving in and out of London every day as traffic and parking in central London are no joke, or so I have been told.

Did you know?

  • The oldest parts of Windsor Castle were built by William the Conqueror in 1066.
  • Windsor Castle is the largest inhabited castle in the world.
  • It is the favorite residence of the queen, she spends most weekends there and lives at the castle full-time from March through April every year.
  • Windsor Castle was also the favorite residence of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

Our Vacation to England and France

Last month Adam and I finally made it off on vacation for the first time since our honeymoon in June of last year. Let me tell you, it was a much-needed change of scenery and rhythm! Our chosen destinations were Paris, where we spent two nights in the Montmartre area followed by a week spent in an apartment in Versailles. From there we commuted back and forth to Paris, went on a day trip to Chartres, explored every nook and cranny of the Château and Domaine of Versailles and visited Malmaison, the home of Joséphine Bonaparte. After nine days in the Paris area, we hopped on the Eurostar and travelled across the English Channel for two nights in London and a final two nights in Windsor. Needless to say, I have plenty of travel tales to tell, so I will be breaking them down into three separate posts.

Let’s begin with Paris! This was my first visit to the City of Light which, at the age of 35, is a bit odd for an art and architectural historian but there you have it! I loved my Parisian experience however I must say that the image of Paris we see in popular culture is seriously glamorized. Paris is portrayed as a beautiful, romantic, chic city, the type of place you cannot help but fall in love with. I did not fall in love with Paris but I did fall in love with parts of it.

Paris is a surprisingly small city but extremely densely populated by both Parisians and tourists. Do not go to Paris on holiday if you are looking for peace and quiet, you will not get it. I was also surprised by how loud the city is. Paris is by far the loudest of all the European cities I have visited so far because of how heavy traffic can get. Also, a large portion of the vehicles in Paris are scooters and motorbikes which are louder than cars. Don’t get me wrong though, Paris is a beautiful city and despite all the people and noise, it is very easy to get some lovely photos of all the most famous landmarks thanks to the fact that central Paris was largely rebuilt by Georges-Eugène Haussmann in the mid-19th century.

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Thanks to Haussmann, Paris is very easy to explore on foot and it also has a very vast public transit system so if you do get tired of walking you are never more than one block from a metro station. However, there is a serious lack of concern for the comfort of visitors in the city’s attractions, namely in the availability of bathrooms. Notre-Dame-De-Paris? Stunning, I absolutely loved it but there are no washrooms inside the church. If you need to go, you have to leave the cathedral, go around to the back and pay .50 centimes to use the washroom there. When I wanted to go the bathroom, unfortunately the only one in the area, it was closed while the church was still very much open.

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And the Louvre? It is also, naturally, a must see. Do not expect to leave the museum feeling anything other than exhausted though. You will more than likely start your visit by standing in line. We spent forty-five to fifty minutes in line outside. We were lucky it was a cloudy day because the lineup for the Louvre is in the palaces courtyard and there is no shelter from the elements. I cannot begin to imagine how horrible it must be standing in line at the Louvre in the Summer heat with no shade and no water fountains. Be advised that there are no water fountains inside the Louvre either, so bring water! P.S.: There are no bathrooms in the vicinity of the Louvre, so plan accordingly or you will suffer like I did.

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Once you are inside the museum, be prepared for massive lineups for the washrooms. I suggest you go even if you don’t really need to, because bathrooms are few and far between in the galleries. Wear comfrotable shoes because there are very few places to sit and above all else, do not set out to visit the entire museum in one day, it simply cannot be done. Decide what you absolutely want to see and limit yourself to that. As for the Mona Lisa, she is indeed splendid and worth the crowds that surround her but be sure you pay attention to all the other stunning works of art that lead up to her and surround her. Also appreciate how incredibly amused she seems by being the center of so much attention.

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My favorite area of Paris was Montmartre where we stayed in a lovely little hotel for two nights. Montmartre was too far from the center of Paris to be touched by Haussmann’s overhaul, so it has kept its network of narrow, winding streets. Also, since far fewer tourists make it all the way to Montmartre, Parisians are much friendlier there. If you are lucky enough to visit Paris one day, make sure you set aside at least half a day for a thorough exploration of Montmartre and you will be charmed.

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To sum it up, I loved my first visit to Paris and while the city itself was a bit of a trial at times, I was thrilled to finally get to see so many places and monuments I had been dreaming of seeing; in some cases, since I was a little girl.

Here is a list of dos and don’ts to keep in mind if you are planning to visit Paris for the first time:

Do:

1-Carry toilet paper, hand sanitizer and .50 centime coins with you at all times. You cannot get into pay-to-go bathrooms in France that do not have an attendant with anything other than a .50 centime coin and be aware that they unfortunately frequently lack toilet paper, soap or both.

2-Keep your bag in front of you at all times when you are in crowded areas if you are a lady. Gents: keep your wallet in your front pocket.

3-Carry water, a hat and sunblock with you.

4-Walk as much as you can! Paris is best enjoyed on foot, if you try to drive in the city you will spend a lot of time in traffic. Adam and I walked an average of 10 kms a day during our entire vacation and wow, did it ever leave us feeling amazing!

5- If you are a foodie, enjoy the markets! France is very well know for its excellent food and the French love using fresh ingredients, so rent an apartment for your stay so you can do your own cooking and go for a walk in your neighborhood to learn where the local bakeries, cheese shops, butcher shops and fishmongers are. If you cannot find one of these within a few blocks of your place, ask a shopkeeper and they will more than likely be able to point you to the right place to find your missing ingredients.

Don’t:

1-Do not expect service with a smile. You may have heard that Parisians are not the friendliest of hosts. This is unfortunately true and I must admit, it really rubbed me the wrong way. Service with a scowl is more the Parisian way of dealing with tourists…

2- Do not bring your diet on vacation with you! French food completely lived up to my expectations. I did not have a single bad meal the entire time I was in France. We drank wine every night and ate all the cheese, baguettes, pastries and charcuterie we wanted and guess what? I actually lost weight while we were away. See point #4 of my ‘do’ list for probable cause but seriously, you will regret blowing off your diet while in Paris way less than you will sticking to it.

4- Do not eat right next door to a tourist attraction or within one no matter what. You will be the victim of inflated prices and low food quality. Walk a few blocks away from any major attraction before giving any serious consideration to eating.

5- Do not take public transit at rush hour if at all possible, especially not if you are even the slightest bit claustrophobic. The Parisian public transit system can get extremely crowded, so for your comfort, try getting on after peak commuting times.

 

Our Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia Honeymoon

 

Hello everyone!

Here, now that I am finally done sorting through our wedding photos, are some pictures from our amazing Maritime Honeymoon!

Adam and I were asked many times why on earth we would decide to go to the Maritimes for our honeymoon? Would we not rather go to some far-flung tropical destination with palm trees, a swim up bar and room service?  Uh…no, no, we would not. We thought about it at first but that’s just not us. Adam and I wanted peace and quiet and to be with nobody but one another for our honeymoon and you just can’t have that in a resort. Also, for the price we paid for our cottage for one month, we would have only been able to spend two weeks at the most in a resort. We wanted to go to a place where we knew we would be able to fully recharge our batteries, do things at our own pace and not feel like we were missing out on anything if we decided we needed to spend the day just loafing around at home. We both know and love PEI so it was the logical choice and we decided to stay near the Wood Islands ferry terminal so we could make a day trip to Nova Scotia, which neither one of us had ever visited.

In the end, our honeymoon was perfect and just what we needed. We spent the first week and a half taking things slow, napping whenever we wanted to and the third week we made our trip to Nova Scotia where we visited Halifax, Lunenberg and made a quick photo stop in Mahone. We came home tanned, much to everyone’s surprise (hello, beautiful PEI beaches!), rested and blissfully happy. So, when planning your honeymoon, do not be afraid to think outside the box. Honeymoons do not have to involve sunny, tropical destinations. They can also be built around going back to a place you love or around an activity you love.The main thing is, make sure you can relax during your trip and do not feel the need to leave 24 hours after you walk down the aisle. Even though weddings are a blast and you come through them on a massive high, they are stressful and once you come down off your adrenaline rush, all you will want to do is sleep and lie around in your PJs for a few days and we really appreciated being able to do that for a week before we had to spend a day and a half driving to the Island.

Finally, here is a list of the most romantic things to do in PEI:

1- Sunset beach walks

2- Having dinner at the Point Prim Chowder House at sunset

3- Dinner at Dalvay by the sea

4- Indulging in an ice cream cone from Cow’s while strolling through Charlottetown in the evening

5- Enjoy a walk through the PEI Preserve Company’s Gardens of Hope

I hope you all enjoy the photos from our trip, I’m so glad I finally had the time to get on here and share with all of you!

 

 

Polish Travels

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So, it’s been a while again and a lot has happened! In mid-June Adam and I were finally able to get away from the constant noise and dust of our downstairs neighbors renovation project and off we went to Poland, but not before getting engaged on June 14th! I had sort of been expecting him to pop the question for a while, but he still managed to surprise me and the proposal was so simple and perfect and romantic and so completely US! As many of you know, planning has been going full steam ahead and most of the big things are already dealt with. THANK YOU to everyone for your good wishes, encouragement and help so far, we love you all dearly and feel very fortunate to have all you in our lives 🙂

Now, on to Poland! We were very busy during our trip since Adam wanted me to see as much of his country as possible. We changed cities six times in two and a half weeks, beginning with Warsaw. We then traveled to Adam’s mother’s home town for a two-day visit with his family there before going to Czestochowa, Krakow, Zakopane and back to Krakow. My favorite place to visit was definitely Krakow. I love the architecture and laid back, small town feel of the city and also the fact that the entire historic center of it is pedestrian. A major highlight of Adam and I’s time there was being able to spend a few minutes alone in a room with Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘Lady with an Ermine’, which is temporarily on display at the Wawel Palace while the Czartorinsky museum where it is normally exhibited is renovated. Pretty much every single person in Poland has seen Lady with an Ermine because it is a point of pride for Poles that they have one of the only completed Da Vincis in the world outside of the Louvre Museum in Paris. Since most Poles have already seen the painting and the country is not nearly as overrun by tourists as France is, it is incredibly easy to spend time alone with the painting if you’re willing to wait in the room a little while until it empties out. What a treat! Another must-see in the Krakow area is the Wieliczka salt mine. They have tours in several different languages, including French and English, but be prepared to go down a ton of stairs at the beginning of the tour and to walk a lot. One of the most impressive things you will see during your tour of the mine is its chapel which, as with everything else in the mine, is carved directly into the salt bed.

Another treat during our trip was our lovely, long hike in the mountains in Zakopane, barring a rather traumatizing episode when we ended up in a rather more challenging area than we should have been. Heed this warning: If you go hiking in the mountains in Zakopane, do not rely on the tourist maps, difficulty levels of the trails are not indicated and the locals have a rather distorted view of what is difficult and what is not since they have grown up in the area and are very proficient hikers and rock climbers. Czestochowa is beautiful as well and I absolutely loved visiting the Jasna Gora sanctuary.

As for the food, it is generally excellent and authentic. Do not go to Poland expecting to have an easy time finding sushi and Italian food, you will be grievously disappointed. Enjoy the Polish food, it is hearty, made with local ingredients and not full of all the nasty funk we have in processed foods almost everywhere else nowadays. You will wait for a while for your food anywhere other than in a milk bar (Polish fast food restaurant) and that is a very good thing because guess what? You’re getting fresh stuff made just for you! I was only disappointed by my food twice and both times we ate in a flashy tourist trap because we were starving and it was what was easiest to do. It can happen to the best of us, so just steer clear of tourist traps that seem to be full of Americans and you will be fine 🙂

The only downside to this trip was the language barrier. I have a basic knowledge of the Polish language and I still ended up feeling homesick about 3/4 of the way through the trip because I just could not process what was being said around me most of the time. Polish is a very difficult language to master (this coming from a girl who is completely french/english bilingual and has studied and done not too badly in three other languages) and even when you do okay in a basic situation, like being able to ask for the washroom or a tram line, you will end up being completely befuddled when trying to comprehend what people are talking about around you because there are so many different tenses and gender variations depending on just about everything under the sun, like whether you are referring to a table, a table with something on it, a table with something under it, or dancing on a table at your grandparents 70th wedding anniversary. I kid you not. I’m not saying communicating in English is an issue in Poland, everyone who works with the public in any capacity speaks very good English, but it is definitely a good idea to have some basics of the Polish language under your belt before travelling there, or make sure you have a very good Polish/English dictionary in the back of your travel book just in case.

All in all, I highly recommend a visit to Poland, it is a beautiful and authentic country, with plenty to offer and that is not, as with so many other European destinations, completely overrun by foreign tourists. It is also wonderful for travelers on a budget, because the country has kept its own currency, the Zloty, which is much friendlier for Canadian travellers since you can typically get about three Zlotys for every Canadian Dollar. Your biggest expense will be your plane ticket there, but once that is paid for, you will be stunned by how little you will spend on food, attractions, accommodation and shopping. Enjoy!

Two days in Québec

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So, you have undoubtedly noticed that I have been away for a while. We have some new downstairs neighbors and it has been a bumpy ride since they took possession of the lower half of the duplex in mid-March and began demolishing it in order to renovate it. A bumpy ride as in beyond the usual irritating consequences of a nearly hundred year-old house being gutted to the studs and rebuilt. We were expecting noise, dust and a few issues being discovered with our home as well, but on top of that we got work being done on common elements of the building without our permission, legal threats, express instructions that  only electricians cut wires being ignored and therefore power to sections of our home being cut, our alarm system being damaged and our phone line being cut. We were also treated to personal accusations and insults being thrown our way through the hypocritical medium of e-mail which led me to put my foot down and cut all ties with the neighbors except for requests for bills being paid or permission being requested for work to be done on common elements.With all this going on, to say that I have been lacking inspiration to create anything at all would be an understatement. I have actually been lacking the time and energy to get anything done beyond dealing with the mess being created by the new neighbors at all. The one thing that has been able to give me a reprieve from the confused heap our life has recently become was a two day trip to Quebec City we ran off on at the drop of a hat two weeks ago so Adam could attend a conference. It gave me a chance to spend some time wandering around one of the most photogenic cities I have ever seen, reconnect with my mother’s family history and disconnect from anything neighbor related. Oh, and Adam and I got to have a nice, romantic dinner in one of our favorite restaurants as well. We discovered it on our last trip to Quebec City two years ago and were so happy to be able to go back.

Quebec City is a beautiful little jewel of a place filled with colorful row houses and its oldest section is surrounded by the only intact fortified walls to be found in America north of Mexico which were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. The city is one of the oldest in North America and was founded by Samuel de Champlain in 1608. While all of this makes the city exceptional in and of itself, it is the history of my family that always makes me happy to go back and visit it. My mother’s family has its roots in Quebec City and can be traced back to the 17th century in the area, so needless to say I always feel at home when I am there and love remembering all the stories my grandmother has told me about growing up in Quebec City. I love walking through Quebec’s narrow streets and feeling my family’s past around me. This was the first time I really had the time to photograph the city as well and my goodness did I enjoy every second of those two days.

Finally, I’ve decided to post only in English from now on to make life simpler for myself on here. One language to post in means it takes me half the time to get a post up which is a good thing. All the photos featured in the slideshow in this post will be added to the travel photography page, so if you want to get a close look at them, you can pop over there.

 

New York…much more than just a city!/New York…bien plus qu’une simple ville!

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The Empire State Building seen from the High Line/L’Empire State Building vue de la High Line

As I mentioned in my introduction to my travel photography page, New York City holds a very special place in my heart since it was the city I traveled to on my very first trip away from home without my family. That first trip took place when I was in high school and I have since been back to the City That Never Sleeps twice, once in the Spring of 2002 and again in the Spring of 2014 with my Darling. My experience of New York has been completely different on each of my visits. My first impression of New York was that it was an overwhelmingly crowded, loud, busy and exciting city that was bursting with confidence after rising out of some very troubled time during the eighties. On my second visit to the Big Apple, there was a very hushed, wounded feel to it and its people since I was there just months after the September 11th attacks. New York was still struggling to get back to normal and traces of the attack were still clearly visible. Of all the sides of New York I have seen, however, my favorite one is the one I saw during my most recent visit there in Spring two years ago. The city was vibrant, clean and oh, so resilient. I smiled through the entire five days we were there because I was so happy to see the city I loved not only back to the way I had first known it, but better.

This post is not only about New York City though! So many people forget that there is much more to New York State than one city. New York also has some extremely beautiful countryside on offer and one of the best places to enjoy it, aside from the Adirondack State Park, is the nearby town of Lake Placid which sits right by the beautiful Mirror Lake. My aunt and uncle have been going there for years and not long ago, my brother and sister in-law got in on the fun and relaxation, so My Darling and I decided we had better give it a try as well and oh, my word…What a treat! We stayed at the pampering hub of Lake Placid, the beautiful Mirror Lake Inn Resort and Spa, which features incredible food, a perfect view on Mirror Lake and Whiteface Mountain and we also had a wonderfully bubbly little brook right outside our room. Relaxation at its best!

You can find some more photos from my time in New York City and Lake Placid in the travel section and a few photos from Lake Placid are also on Déco Photo Plus.


 

Comme je vous l’ai déjà mentionné, la ville de New York m’est très chère puisqu’elle a été ma première destination de voyage ‘en solo’ en quelque sorte, donc à l’extérieur d’un cadre familial. J’y a ai voyagé pour la première fois au secondaire et depuis, j’y suis retourné à deux reprises, en 2002 et avec mon conjoint en 2014. J’ai eu la chance, lors de ces voyages, d’observer plusieurs facettes de New York allant d’une première impression d’un ville énorme, bondée, bruyante et excitante à une ville blessée et tentant tant bien que mal de se relever des attentats du 11 septembre 2001. Je n’ai jamais autant appréciée New York que lors de ma dernière visite par contre. Après une absence de plus de dix ans, j’y suis retournée pour trouver une ville qui vivait une renaissance incroyable. La Grosse Pomme était résiliante, propre, vivante et sereine comme je ne l’avais jamais connue. J’ai sourit tout le long de notre visite cinq jours tellement j’étais heureuse de retrouver la ville non seulement comme je l’avais vue lors de ma première visite quand j’en étais tombée amoureuse, mais encore plus splendide.

Je veux pas seulement vous parler de la la ville de New York aujourd’hui par contre, mais de l’état de New York aussi, car il est tellement facile d’oublier que ce coin des États-Unis abrite bien plus que l’une des villes les plus célèbres au monde! Non, l’État de New York compte aussi de merveilleux paysages et de charmants villages dont la petite ville de Lake Placid qui est juste à côté du superbe parc des Adirondacks. Ma tante et mon oncle visitent ce coin du New York depuis des années et l’ont fait découvrir à mon frère et ma belle-soeur. Ils en chantaient tous tellement les éloges que mon Chéri et moi avons décidé de nous y rendre à notre tour et oh, que de plaisirs! Le Village de Lake Placid est charmant en soit, mais la route pour s’y rendre à partir de Montréal est tout aussi agréable puis la cerise sur le Sundae de notre séjour: le sublime Mirror Lake Inn! La nourriture dans ses restaurants est délectable, la vue sur Mirror Lake et le mont Whiteface est sublime et les chambres sont incroyablements douillets. Nous avions même un charmant petit ruisseau juste à l’extérieur de notre chambre! C’est vraiment le coin idéal pour une scéance de dorlottage et de relaxation!

Vous pouvez voir quelques photos de mon dernier voyage à New York et de notre petit séjour à Lake Placid dans la section voyage et il y a aussi quelques photos de Lake Placid dans mon Portfolio chez Déco Photo Plus.

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Mirror Lake Inn, Lake Placid, NY