Monday, April 4, 2011

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Montreal Day Ten - Tower Montreal & Jardin Botanique

This morning I headed back out to near the Biodomé, but this time to go up the Montréal Tower and to see the Jardin Botanique/Insectarium. I first headed up the tower – it looked like I’d be taking the trip up all by myself... but just as the cable car arrived so did the chinese tour group(!!) so it ended up being quite a packed ride. The view from up there was spectacular – you could see all of downtown Montréal, Mont Royale, Parc Jean Drapeau, as well as the Jardin Botanique.

The Biodomé & the TowerDowntown Montréal

Me on the observation deck.

After that I headed over to the Jardin Botanique and made a beeline for the Insectarium (hehe). There were lots of interesting bugs, scorpions and spiders though the majority of the samples were already dead and affixed to the wall.

Me out front of the Insectarium


More bugs!

After the insectariums I headed into the gardens. The gardens are actually MASSIVE and way more that I could cover in an entire day, let alone the few hours I had. I decided to go see the Japanese, First Nations, Alpine, Aquatic and Chinese gardens. I went to the Japanese garden first – they had a stack of Bonsai, a lovely exhibition garden with waterfalls and some GIANT Koi.

River in the Jap Garden

Giant Koi

Jap Garden

Next I headed into the First Nations Garden, which was a bit like walking through trail in a forest. It was lovely and cool and nice and quiet. After that I had a look at the Alpine Garden, which had samples from all around the world including the Alps, the Himalayas and the Rockies. I also walked through the aquatic garden which was funnily enough filled with water lilies and reeds.

Me in the forest
A waterfall in the alpine garden

Water lilies

I lastly headed to the Chinese Gardens. There was actually a lantern festival on at the time so the whole area was filled with paper lanterns throughout the entire garden. I originally wanted to come back during the evening to see the lanterns all lit up, however I didn’t really get the chance to.

Views of the Chinese Gardens

After walking through the gardens for a while I headed back into down town to do a little shopping – I managed to get souvenirs for pretty much everyone... and a few things for myself of course. I spent most of my last evening packing and getting ready for tomorrow. I took one final walk around and got dinner in a restaurant on Rue St Catherine and then I headed to bed.

Montréal Day Nine – Attack of the squirrels!!

I was running a little late this morning as I woke up at around 10 and was meant to be meeting everyone at Sherbrooke metro station at 11!! However, I managed to have a shower, get dress and ready to be out of the door but 10:45, meaning that I arrive just a lil after 11 (but not too late!). We headed up from Sherbrooke station to a park nearby called Parc Fountannie, stopping at a bakery on the way to pick up some fresh baguettes and some goat cheese. At the park we headed to a bench by the lake and on the way noticed a white/albino squirrel!! It looked very out of place! As we started eating we started getting a lot of interest from the local bird (pigeon & seagull) populations, as well as one rebel squirrel which kept come and running around us. At one point he actually jumped on to Garry’s leg!! He seemed to disappear for a bit, however before we knew it he was on the bench next to us, crawling along, ready to pounce!! It was most funny yet scary. We fed the squirrel some broccoli, which it wasn’t very interested in... and then some bread, which he squirreled away up a nearby tree.

Albino Squirrel

Ready to Pounce

Hayley, Jenna and Garry

After our picnic brunch/lunch we said our final goodbyes to Garry who was off to catch a plane to France as part of his climbing world tour. Hayley, Jenna and I headed down Rue Berri in search of the UQAM-Berri Bus station. At the bus station Jenna and Hayley grabbed their bus tickets for the airport – at this point we then said goodbye to Hayley who was off to Cleveland.

As Jenna had a few more hours to kill we decided to head up Parc Mont Royale. After lots of map consolations we managed to find a park entrance and started headed up the ‘mountain’. It was actually quite a hard trek up the paths, and then we were had to tackle the long flights of stairs to the ‘top’... well actually it wasn’t even the top, it was just a lookout and afforded us a fantastic view of the city. We stayed out at the top there for quite awhile, just letting the views sink in and watching numerous joggers and walkers running on the paths and up and down the stairs. I felt pretty tired just from watching them. We then headed down back into the city and stopped into a juice bar, reminiscent of Boost Juice.

View from the top lookout

On the metro I said goodbye to Jenna who was leaving that afternoon back home to London town. I instead headed back to downtown to see the Basilique Marie-Reine-Du-Monde Cathédral, which is apparently based on St Peter’s Cathedral in Rome but at a one-quarter scale. The outside is the fantastic gothic looking building with I think about 13 statues out the front and the inside is again very decorative and amazing.

The Outside Facade

View from the inside

Artwork on the ceiling

After that I walked around downtown for a bit before heading to an Indian Restaurant for dinner, which wasn’t too bad! And then... bed!

Montreal Day Eight - Biodome

Despite falling asleep somewhere around the 4am mark, I managed to drag myself out of bed to make that mornings 8 am lecture. It was actually quite interesting and managed to keep me awake, even if it was on a totally different area to my own. After the lecture we then said goodbye to the Canadian boys as they headed back to Sherbrooke.

Jenna and I then headed to the osteoblast session where we met up with John again. The session was scientifically interesting, but I think we were all a lil brain fried by that point, so we amused ourselves with the man that obviously loved the sound of his own voice.... he also, somehow, managed to acknowledge him in his own talk?!

And that was it. The end of the conference. Farwell ASBMR... well... for this year anyways!

Afterwards we met up with Hayley and decided we’d go to see the Biodomé with Garry (who was still actually in bed at that point). We went for a bit of food first, stopping at a pizza shop where “we” met a very nice boy from Ottawa... I think Jenna was hoping he might stalk us and meet us at Biodomé but alas it was not to be.

We caught the Metro at Pie IX and waited for Garry... eventually we worked out Garry was at Viau (one stop up)... and of course as we were in the subway (aka underground) we didn’t get his messages. But either way, it worked out. We met up and headed into the BIODOMÉ!!

So I guess the Biodomé is really just a zoo – but it has simulated environments where you can walk around and have the animals flying and playing all around you. The first eco system we headed into was the tropical rainforest – it was pretty cool. There were birds flying everywhere and monkeys in the trees!! Even though the monkeys were a lil shy they did come down from the tops of the trees eventually so we could have a good look at them. There were also Caimans & Turtles and of course LOTS and LOTS of birds!! (There is also meant to be a sloth but we couldn’t see hide nor hair of it L)

Golden tamarin


Some birds

After the rainforest section we headed into the St Lawerence Forrest section. Now one of the main reasons Jenna & Hayley wanted to visit the Biodomé was to see the Otters.... but unfortunately for us they were asleep L However there were also Beavers, Porcupines (up trees?) and the Lynxes (like tabby cats... but BIGGER). You could actually have a look at the beavers from underwater and we had great fun watching this one beaver that seemed to be swimming on the one spot all the time!!

Sleeping Otter

Eating Beaver

Porcupine up tree

Then was the St Lawerence River section – which had all these massive fishes, an 8kg Lobster (it was HUGE), bird and these cool ‘smiley’ stingrays. Beyond that was the arctic section which has penguins & puffins galore. We spent a bit of time there checking them out – so cute!!

Puffin & Penguin

Emperor Penguin

Penguin’s Mother’s Club! J

After spending some time in the arctic enclosure we decided to see if we were able to back-track to the otters to see if they were awake... unfortunately for us they weren’t. As we came out thought there was another exhibit – straight from Madagascar.... LEMURS! They were very cute! After that we headed out of the Biodomé back to the Metro station. Garry left us at this point and went to meet a friend of his, just leaving myself, Jenna and Hayley.


We decided to walk into town instead of catching the metro – on the way we stopped in for some MacDonalds! (Can’t go to North America with going to Maccas at least once!!) Eventually we headed down Rue Sherbrooke on the search for a HSBC branch for Jenna – we spent an hour or so walking but could not seem to find it at all. Eventually, Jenna tried another ATM cash point which magically decided to work. There was a café nearby, so we decided to stop there for a coffee. The coffee there was actually FANTASTIC and is the best coffee I’ve had in Canada so far! While we were there Jenna wrote up a whole bunch of postcards for her friends back home, and Hayley and I decided to see to pick a nice restaurant for dinner.

Hayley picked this Italian restaurant that I think was called Le Emma... or maybe De Emma... It was down in Old Montréal, so we headed down that way to find the place. It took a lil bit of searching and once we got there the kitchen was actually too busy to seat us – so we had the option to wait or go. The bar was looking nice and tantalising so we decided to wait it out, which ended up being a very good decision. After about half an hour we got give a table and a menu full of dishes in Italian... after some translational help – we all got a bottle of wine and some mixed salads, I got the Penne Al Salmone, Jenna got the Veal and Hayley the Baby Pig (the main reason she wanted to go here actually!!). The food was DELICIOUS!! We each had a try of everyone else’s dishes and each one was fantastic. Hayley’s ‘baby’ pig was actually so massive that she thought she had been given something else by mistake. There was actually so much that we decided that the all of us would have a picnic the next day with the leftovers. After dinner, full and satisfied we all decided to head back home for some much needed rest.

Montréal Days Five, Six & Seven – Conference Shenanigans

I headed to the second day of the conference nice and early for the first session of that morning. Garry, one of the ANZBMS crew, managed to find me in the crowd and we had a quick chat as just before the first talk started. Spent the entire day at different sessions – there is some FANTASTIC science happening in the bone field at the moment and there were some very interesting talks.... and some were not. Though normally in that case it was not the science that wasn’t interesting – it was more the style of the presenter. I was very surprised at the amount of presenters who were READING their presentations... I can’t imagine getting away with that at Usyd!!

As a result of not going to the first day I apparently missed the ASBMRs Young Investigators event which has occurred the previous evening. However, Garry was going for dinner/drinks with a few other that evening so he invited me along. So after a long hard day of conference (ha!) I met up with Garry and a few of his new YI friends – Jenna and Hayley the Brits, Steve and Max the French Canadians, as well as Katie and Annie from the US. Garry, Katie and Annie actually all had evening workshops to attend so I headed off for dinner with J, H, S & M in Old Montréal. We ended up having dinner in this pub which had a fantastic view of the Old Port from the window. I also tried my first Canadian beer – instead of larger, ales etc. they are divided by colours red, blue and blonde. I think we had a Red which was pretty good. Once dinner was over we headed over to the Old Port and sat on a bench by the water having a chat and a few sips of Arizona ‘Ice Tea’.... aka Jameson’s mixed with Ice Tea.... a lil on the strong side but not too bad. We then headed back to the conference centre to pick up our workshoppees before heading out into the town. We ended up at this random bar in a pedestrian plaza that had $8 doubles and $3 shots... after a few double rums & coke, tequila shots and liquid cocaine’s (Jagger & the vodka with the gold flakes) I had a good buzz. K, G and I got into a large political/religious discussion which was full of drunken philosophical banter. We then decided to move somewhere... which then meant we wondered around Montreal for like an hour and ended up at some random bar that wanted to charge us $6, despite the fact they were only open for another hour!! We then decided to call it a night!

Katie, Garry and Me

Jessie and Katie at in the coat check area of some random bar

I had set my alarm early for the next morning in the hopes of catching the 10AM sessions which had a few good CaSR related talks... however I confused the snooze and disabled button... turning off my alarm and not really waking up to 11AM... meaning I missed everything!! I was VERY annoyed with myself! The rest of the day was... well.... conferencey...

Made plans with the YIs to meet up for dinner – we were heading for some Mexican. Met a few more US girls from Katie and Annie’s lab – Leecola and Clara. From memory the place was call Cassa Peppe’s (but that could be totally wrong) and it had a giant sign proclaiming the be the best Mexican place in Montréal... which lead to a discussion on the number of Mexican places there would actually be in Montréal... However best or not the restaurant was PACKED and we ended making reservations for the next hour. We then headed to a nearby Irish pub and met up with Dave, who is originally from Montréal, to wait out our time – Jenna and Katie managed to down a whole bottle of wine between the two of them within the hour... it was a pretty impressive sight!

We then headed back to Mexican where we grabbed a few Daiquiri’s & Margarita’s to go with our meals (they were massive & delicious!!). The food was very very good (of Flying Fajita standards at least) so maybe they weren’t lying... J After dinner we headed to a bar near McGill where Dave used to work where we had a few drinks & met up with Kara (another Yank). Steve showed off his origami skills and taught Jenna how to make a water balloon.... which they was used as a volleyball... and eventually everyone ended up throwing the free mints (“we” (aka Jenna) stole from the Mexican place) at each other!

A few people were in a dancing mood so we then headed to a club called Café Campus (it was actually just across the plaza from the first bar we were at the night before). We originally thought Dave said they played ‘fresh’ music... but he actually meant ‘FRENCH’... The music was not so great and I was sorta wrecked I headed back early with Jenna and Hayley, so we could catch the Metro back.

Clara takes on 2 Daiquiri’s

Max, Steve and Dave

Steve, Dave and Kara throwing things at Max

The next day I had to present my poster which was actually kinda boring. I probably had 4 – 5 people talk to me... which isn’t too bad – however, as I had to stand there for like 2 hours it wasn’t the most thrilling time I’ve ever had, that’s for sure!! I also managed to get a glimpse of Ed Brown (academic hero) however he was a lil busy when I saw him, so I didn’t introduce myself! (D’oh!)

AC had made mention of going out for dinner this night – however neither Ryan or I ever saw him to actually organise it so I instead went for dinner with a few of the YIs instead. We ended up having another pub meal at MVPs – where we discovered that you can get FREE POPCORN in US/Canadian bars... Jenna, Hayley, Garry and myself were amazed and despite the fact that we were all stuffed from dinner “we” (aka Jenna) made Max and Nick (another Quebeccer) get some for us. After that we headed to the ASBMR social event and ran into John, another ANZBMSer. It was held in a theatre type place – with a stage, massive dancefloor and lots of little tables/booths. They had a band going all night long; playing lots of familiar/old rock and roll hits; as well as a trapeze artist.

The Band

Trapeze skills


We spent most of the evening upstairs on the balcony (prime observing position) but after a few drinks the upstairs became our only private dance floor as we cut some sick moves on the dance floor... I even did a bit more gypsy dancing!! Though really the number one entertainment of the night was watching all these incredible intelligent people ‘shake their booty’ on the dance floor!! We did become slightly obsessed with this one guy who we nick names “Blue Shirt” mainly because... well... he was wearing a blue shirt. But he was awesome and danced all night long!!

Observing from the balcony

Leecola, Garry, John and Hayley

The Yankies – Leecola, Clara, Katie and Annie

After a few more drinks we headed down stairs to join the throng! Jenna and I headed over a danced in Blue Shirt guy’s circle for a lil bit, Garry need a bit of knee-sliding, while Steve pulled out some lovely air guitar solos.

Max, Katie and Steve

Steve, Me, Garry, Hayley and John

At one stage ‘Hey Jude’ came on – our group of YIers linked arms and I got John to take a photo of me in front of a line of people... before we knew it John and I were in the middle of a massive circle. John continuing to take photos to make it look like he was there for a reason, me running around and conducting (CONDUCTING) the crowd... it’s probably a good thing I’m heading for clinical medicine as I doubt anyone will be giving me a postdoc in the bone field after that!!

Me in front of the ‘crowd’

Part of the circle

John and I in the middle (looking very sober!)

Unfortunately it all ended way too soon as the social even wrapped up at about 11:30! We took a massive group photo for all the YIers, and then Jenna and I went and introduced ourselves to Blue Shirt guy and got a photo (yes we are dags). After that we headed off with a massive group of ASBMRs in search for a bar to continue the festivities.

ASBMR YIers: B: Carl, Garry, Jenna, Steve, Leecola, Clara, Katie, Max & John

F: Annie, Nick, Hayley and Me

We ended up at some ‘hip’ bar called the radio lounge which had poles which made Jenna very excited as she showed off her pole dancing skills!! The place was pretty skanky but the drinks were relatively cheap we managed to drag Blue Shirt Guy (who’s actually called Andre and is from Switzerland) and a few of his friends, Billy (originally from Glasgow) and Fabio (originally from Brazil), who are all currently in Calgary. We had some good fun dancing and talking with them and didn’t end up leaving till about 3ish in the morning. We also had to say Goodbye to all the yankies as they headed back very early the next morning. Hayley managed to grab some ‘free’ drinks to go and she headed out. I then headed out with Billy and Fabio on the search for some late night grease. I grabbed a kebab as Billy introduced me to the Quebec speciality, Poutine, which is chips, cheese curds and gravy... it is DELICIOUS! After that I grabbed a cab back to my hotel for sleep!!

Me, Billy, Andreas (Blue Shirt Guy) and Jenna

Jenna shows off her pole dancing skills

Max and Steve