To all ye who want to paint with light ...

I should have started this blog many moons ago as I started experiencing the joys of rediscovering the art of photography. But as the saying goes - it's better late, than never!
So, here I am, in the hopes of recording what I learn as I progress from ignorance to enlightenment; about what my eyes can see that my camera can capture; and, what my mind imagines and my camera paints with its capabilities.

Please feel free to add any comments and share your wisdom (tips or tricks) that you have picked up along the way.

And do check out my How-To and Birding pages as well.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Charming Charlevoix - Part 1

I have been really falling back with updating my blog with all the latest happenings, one of them being my recent trip to the beautiful Charlevoix region of Quebec.   I had been prepping for this for ages, and it finally came to fruition recently.  It was a short 4-day trip, but it's a long story!  But in a few quick words this is what I have to say - I fell in love with the place, and I'm definitely returning for more!

Our itinerary was something like this -

Day 0: Montreal - La Malbaie
Day 1: La Malbaie - Parc National des Hautes Gorges
Day 2: La Malbaie - Baie Sainte Catherine
Day 3: Chilling and looking around La Malbaie
Day 4: Drive back to Montreal by the scenic route

It mostly went as planned, except we went to Iles aux Coudres, and then sneaked in a drive around Baie Saint Paul, on the day we were supposed to be chilling at La Malbaie.  It worked out great, because I managed to pick up a couple of gifts for my friends from the quaint boutiques selling everything from candy, to soaps & lotions, beautiful paintings, and handmade dinner & cookware.   But more on those when I get there.

Let's start at the beginning.

We drove out of Montreal around 5:00 pm, planning to arrive around 10:30 pm at La Malbaie.  A couple of friends were going to drive, and the rest of us were going to just enjoy the drive.  Since we wanted to get to La Malbaie at a decent hour, I decided to bring some dinner so we wouldn't have to stop for too long waiting to get served at a restaurant.  To do this, we decided to stop right outside Quebec City, where we found a nice and quiet little inroad that led to a pier.

However, what seemed quiet from a distance turned out quite noisy, as there was already a large group of people having their picnic dinner on the pier, and it pretty much looked like we were interrupting the private party.  However, instead of wasting more time trying to find another spot, and without turning a hair, we decided to have our little picnic there as well, albeit after we'd taken in the otherwise tranquil surroundings, and the beautiful dusky sky.

After being outside the vehicle for a few minutes, we changed our minds about picnicking on the pier, and chose to stay inside the car as we got mobbed by bugs.

On the way to La Malbaie

Church on the way to La Malbaie
The village church

On the way to La Malbaie
The tranquil river

When we finally arrived at La Malbaie, we were greeted by Jean Luc, the owner of the bed & breakfast we were going to make our home for the next 4 nights.  Jean Luc had stayed up waiting for us when we arrived around 11:00 pm and very cordially invited us into his home and showed us to our rooms.  

We couldn't see a whole lot in the dark outside, but when we walked into Auberge La Chatelaine, we were completely charmed by the old Victorian style house that was well-maintained, and impeccably clean.  We were even more charmed by the beautiful bedroom us girls were going to be sharing.  And each of the rooms had a name - ours was called Amboise!  What a sweet name for the beautifully appointed room! 

Auberge La Chatelaine - Amboise

We were enthralled by the interiors, but we weren't quite prepared for what we had merely glanced at during the night, and what would take our breath away the next morning.

One of the guys (there were three of them, and us two girls, in our little entourage) let me know that he was an early bird, and we decided to get up and about fairly early in the morning.  The only thing we were a little bit perturbed by was the creaking boards of the old, yet charming house.  Despite being extra-careful, we pretty much managed to wake everyone else up, but no one felt inclined to leaving their beds at 5:45 am.  So the two of us just took off to discover the beautiful town of La Malbaie in the early hours of dawn (I will talk about La Malbaie in the following post, so stay tuned).

Auberge La Chatelaine-1
La Chatelaine in the early morning light

Auberge La Chatelaine

Auberge La Chatelaine is owned and run by Jean Luc and the breakfasts are cooked each morning by his mother.  We were totally wowed by the array of dishes laid out for breakfast and the warm patio where we could just sit down, relax, eat and watch the birds and the bees at work.  

Auberge La Chatelaine - Breakfast

Auberge La Chatelaine - Breakfast
Everyone had finished while I was still taking pictures of the food!

As I stepped into the hallway outside our bedroom on that first morning, I was greeted by the cheerful colours and the many curios strewn around, and I'm sure each piece had its own story to tell, but I was too excited by the prospect of stepping outdoors to worry about the interiors.  

Auberge La Chatelaine Hallway
The hallway outside our bedroom

Upon my return from the morning discoveries, I was greeted by the aromas of the fresh breakfast that had been served in the dining room already.  All I could think of then was my growling stomach, and I couldn't wait to dig in.  

There were different kinds of cheeses, quiches, frittatas, eggs, french toast, cereals, yogurt, fresh fruit salad, fresh home made bread, tea, coffee, juice - the works!  The star of the show was the ham and cheese casserole and the fresh fruit pie on the first day!  The menu changed every morning, and every morning was a surprise!

Auberge La Chatelaine - Breakfast
The table laden with a gourmet breakfast

Auberge La Chatelaine Breakfast
My favourite part - the dessert!

We dug into it, and by the end of breakfast, we were too full to even move.  However, we had a packed day ahead, and had to leave sooner than later.  

What I loved about La Chatelaine are a number of things - extremely clean and well maintained, beautiful interiors that will transport you back to 1892 (the year of construction of this house), the excellent menu at breakfast, where you just eat your fill and get on with your day.  The friendliness and warmth you are greeted with, and the ever-smiling offer of assistance with anything and everything, including booking a table at the local cafe, are things you value as a tourist.  You need guidance from a local to tell you what's the best place to eat at, or the points of interest you just shouldn't miss.  We found all the help we needed right at our fingertips - from Jean Luc. 

Auberge La Chatelaine-Parlour
Looking into the parlour

Auberge La Chatelaine - Dining Area
The dining area

I also found out, during the course of my stay that he loved photography, and we ended up talking a bit about my favourite topic, of course!  

If anyone should want to visit Charlevoix, they should stay at La Chatelaine in La Malbaie, if only to just experience the great feeling of being at home away from home.  I will give this place a 4.9 rating, and I definitely plan to go back there again.  And Jean Luc mentioned that they might even think of starting a dinner service, which would be authentic Italian food!  Yes, you guessed right - he's Italian, and you know what Italians are famous for - their food and hospitality!  So check them out, if you have Charlevoix on your list of places to visit.

Auberge La Chatelaine-2

Monday, July 18, 2011

Flying Over Montreal

It was a fabulous surprise when a friend sent me an email asking if I wanted to fly over Montreal with one of their friends, Thierry Zibi!

Thierry Zibi

Thierry is the CEO of his aircraft manufacturing company H. A. I. M. Aviation ( , and also flies for pleasure from time to time.  He's designed an ultra-light aircraft that most people can fly for recreational purposes.  Getting a license for flying these birds is much simpler than getting licenses for flying other types of aircrafts.  Thierry's design is soon going into production, he very enthusiastically told his eager and excited audience.

Well, this time Thierry had a couple of available seats in his plane, and I jumped at the offer and went flying with a couple of other friends on a Sunday afternoon.


We were originally going to fly in the early evening, and I was really excited as I thought that I might be able to see the sun set over Montreal.  However, the weather changed, and we had to fly earlier.  Thierry was monitoring the weather very closely, and it was really interesting for me to see him roll down the window every so often to check the cloud cover, enroute to the Lachute airport from which we were to take off.

The sun went behind the clouds, and stayed there for most of the time.  That made the flight better (read cooler and more comfortable since the cooling system in these aircrafts aren't that efficient), and I didn't have to battle the sun flaring through my camera lens.  But I did have a hard time photographing the city below which looked pretty dark, with all the clouds hovering over the city.

Downtown Montreal

But the flight went off beautifully - Thierry educated us on how the radio works, what route we'd be taking, and what we would need to do in order to have a pleasant flight, etc. and we were soon lifting off the ground, for my maiden flight in a light aircraft.


He was a fantastic pilot, and he let one of our friends, Midhun, co-pilot the aircraft with him.  Midhun actually flew us back to the airport and that was pretty neat.  He was an excellent co-pilot, despite this being his first time flying, and we all returned alive, back to the airport.  :=) Jokes apart, the flight was smooth and a dream come true!

More pictures in my Flickr Photostream, if you're interested.