Our North American Trip - May and June 2007.
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Our North-East Trip – Week 4:   29 May 5 June 2007
Quebec, Montreal, and St Lawrence River

(This will be updated as and when internet access allows, and we’ll add photos when time permits.  It could (will) be a bit disorganised at times!!)

Tuesday, 29 May 07 – Rockland, Maine to Quebec
After another great breakfast it was time to say farewell to the team at The Berry Manor Inn B&B – this place and surrounding area, has been the highlight of our trip so far.  We managed to get a quick photo of the team provided one of us also joined them + the cat (Capt Nemo).

We departing soon  after 9am as we had a 6hr drive ahead of us to Quebec.   We had a brief stop on the way for a coffee and bought a sandwich to have when we stopped at a picnic area while still in the USA.  We arrived at the Canadian boarder, were asked how long we were going to be in Canada and why we were visiting, then our passports were stamped and we were on our way again. 

We arrived at Quebec – driving over the St Lawrence River bridge - around 4pm (too early to check into our B&B) so we drove up to see the Montmorency Falls (higher than the Niagara Falls).  The falls were quite spectacular – one could either go to the bottom and return on the Gondola or walk up and down the long hall of steps – we opted for the Gondola and walked up to the first viewing point from the bottom on  the steps.

On our arrival at the ‘Gite aux Deux Lions’ B&B (Jean-Francois Dulac), we had a quick introduction to our room and facilities, unpacked and set off to find something to eat at a local restaurant – one Jean-Francois recommended to us.  Our food was fabulous, when we received it, once ordered we had to wait 50 mins for our meals (a main each).  After we pointed out to our waiter that we had not yet had our meals, he enquired with the kitchen staff and chose to not return to inform us what the status was (when we were likely to get them), so there was next to no tip for him!  We had earlier picked up that all the staff appeared to be particularly unorganised!

Once we had left the restaurant we walked around the older part of  Quebec and back up Rue St-Jean.  Some of the night views were fabulous.


Wednesday, 30 May 07 – Quebec
We woke up to rain this morning, hence the – temperature is slightly cooler.

Breakfast was great and light – fresh fruit, cereal & Croissant with Prosciutto & cheese.

Stayed in most of the morning to catch up on emails etc, however the rain didn’t let up so early afternoon we went walking with raincoats and umbrellas late morning.  Found a number of interesting kitchen (another kitchen gadget is now in Annette’s suitcase, deli and other food shops along Rue St-Jean, then went down into the old town again and at about 2.30pm we found the Casse-Crepe Breton Bistro where we had good coffees, and shared a ham and asparagus crepe, followed by a banana and chocolate one, the crepes were very light and the chocolate & Banana one was absolutely DELICIOUS (we might have to go back there again tomorrow!!). 

When we left the Bistro the rain stopped, so we wandered around checking out some stores and more sights, then caught the funicular down to the lower part of town by the river.  Rue du Petit Champlain was a particularly lovely stone paved little lane with shops, galleries, restaurants and great sorbet and gelato ice creams.  Wandered along to where the market is held, but it had closed for the day, then checked out the old railway station with its fascinating fountain, then walked home about 6.30pm getting a few basics like milk and fruit on the way.

Out walking yesterday and all of today, we have had to continually dodge hundreds of groups of teenage school children screaming around the city making right pests of themselves – we assume they are on school field trips of some sort!

Then went to a restaurant about 300 meters from our B&B and had about 20 tapas between us (small Mexican style dishes of Mediterranean food - Italian, French, Spanish, Portugal, Greece & Sirocco) between us.  They were on special at $1 each tonight - we also both got a free glass of wine by presenting the business card from the B&B – great meal, really cheap food and fabulous service (compared to last night) – the restaurant was also really buzzing.

We have noted the following differences since arriving in Quebec:

No motorcycles or taxis, most men’s shirts are brightly patterned and gaudy!, McDonalds signs are an insignificant green and yellow – no Red, haven’t seen a ‘Starbucks’ store yet.

In both the USA and now in Canada women’s dresses and skirts are worn just below the knee - no longer.


 

Thursday, 31 May 07 – Quebec
We woke up to a lovely sunny day, but the slight breeze had quite a chill about it – by mid afternoon there was a full cloud cover and the temperature cooled substantially.

We got out walking by 9.30am and attempted to go up the Capital Observation Deck to the 31st floor, however we were a bit before opening time and the lobby was full of school kids, so we walked up onto the top of some of the City Wall then around the Citadel (old fortifications built by the British to protect the Citadel from being attacked by the French), then along the boardwalk known as the ‘Promenade of the Governors’.

We went to the Information Centre to book on the 11.30am harbour cruise for 90 Mins - that time had been cancelled, so we booked on the 2pm cruise.   Hundreds more school children around the City!! (We enquired at the Information Centre and evidently they are school history trips that occur near the end of the school year.)  Time was approaching 11am so we quickly walked over to  the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac hotel to see if we could go on one of their guided walks that depart every hour – the 1st available vacancy was not until 5pm (that wasn’t possible as we needed to be home around that time), so that was a little disappointing.  Didn’t think one needed to book a day ahead.

We then decided to have an early lunch back at ‘Casse – Crepe Breton’ and ended up being perched up on bar stools overlooking all the crepes being made, which was a great spot.  Shared an asparagus, ham, cheese & mushroom, then we both had a banana & chocolate one each today (refer photo of them being made), as they were so WONDERFUL yesterday – and we weren’t disappointed today either!!  We could have stayed watching these being made for some time as it was fascinating seeing all the different mixtures people had ordered.

Wandered up to look at the one gate in the wall we hadn’t visited, then went back down to the harbour for our cruise, passing our favourite Gelato / sorbet shop on the way!  The cruise was great – passed the Montmorency Falls again and it was nice seeing the city from the St Lawrence River – quite a different perspective.

After the cruise we had a ride in one of the funiculaires up the cliff face, then wandered back to the Capital Observation Deck building and up to the 31st floor - had a great look out over the city – quite a small scale in comparison to Boston and New York.  No school kids in the foyer this time, but quite a few up on the 31st floor, but this group was quite well behaved. 

We have both enjoyed Quebec very much (it’s not a very large city), it’s very interesting and pretty, but for the 3 days we have been here, the place has been over-run by noisy and generally ill-controlled school kids.  At a guess, we believe we have had to battle with around 2000 of them each day, in an attempt to see the sights of the city – there ages would range between 11 – 14 yr olds.

Once home we put on some washing then went to the Tapa restaurant (Café Sirocco) close by, where we had a few tapas, then Duck Confit & salad for our main courses – this restaurant has good food, provides excellent service, and is reasonably priced. + each time we received a free glass of wine each as we were staying at this B&B, so that was great.

For the first time we noticed some taxis around the streets today, initially mainly at the posh Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac hotel, then some generally through other streets.


 

Friday, 1 June 07 – Quebec / Montreal
It had been raining during the night but we woke up to a cloudy fine day.

After a very enjoyable breakfast of cereal, then waffles with banana and watermelon and a mild creamy syrup, we drove out of Quebec and headed for Montreal on highway #20.  Approx half way to Montreal we passed huge blockage of traffic on the other side of the 4 lane motorway (heading north toward Quebec) – it must have been stationery for approx 10 km – we were so glad it didn’t affect us!

Around 2pm we arrived into Montreal and drove to our Hotel (Chateau de L’argoat Hotel) without any problems – thanks to the GPS, again!   Once we had checked in etc, we headed for the old part of Montreal on the Metro – purchased a 3 day pass as it’s cheaper than 2 x 1 day passes.  Wandered around trying to get a feel of the city, climbed up to a view point in the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel & Museum – noticed the Lego look alike buildings (refer photo), known as ‘Habitat ‘67’ and the large yellow & blue tents of ‘Cirque du Soleil’, so we walked along to ask if there were any spare seats for tonight or tomorrow, as we have not seen it yet – yippee, we were able to purchase some for the 4pm show tomorrow (Sat), at a much reduced rate.

After looking for somewhere to eat downtown without any success, we decided to catch the train back to our hotel, then go for a walk along  Rue St-Denis (2 blocks away), in an attempt to find the French Restaurant we read up about before leaving NZ (L'Express).  About 6.45pm we found it so asked if there was a table free – we could have one that was booked for 8pm – the food and wine were as we expected, excellent, along with the service (the hotel tried to make a reservation for us but could not book anything until 10.30pm, so we took a chance and called in instead, and it paid off).  The French bread we were given was the freshest we have had since leaving NZ and with the butter (not whipped butter as one normally gets over here) it was like being back in France!  We even had desert – first desert for 3 weeks!!  When we left G told them that we were from NZ and it was the only restaurant he specifically wanted to go to in Canada, so he told us to come back again tomorrow night!!

Rue St-Denis was so buzzy that it reminded us of ‘Lygon Street in Melbourne, restaurants for kilometres and lots of people about, but without a staff member out the front enticing people into each restaurant!  Stopped in at an amazing Chocolatier, but resisted the temptation to purchase - might get a gelato there for desert tomorrow night if the opportunity presents itself!  On our way back, we walked past a small park – it was surprising how many people and young families were sitting on all the seats in the park and by the fountain – close by was another very busy restaurant street.

When walking back from Rue St-Denis area, we came wondered what all the yelling was about down on an under pass of highway #134 through the city close by to where we were staying – we discovered it was thousands of cyclists (families & people of all ages) on the following event, on a very calm, warm evening: 

THE TOUR DE L'ÎLE DE MONTRÉAL – Friday, 1 June
The Tour de l'Île de Montréal is a tour of the city on two wheels, during an evening when the roads are reserved just for you! Join 30,000 other happy cyclists for 50 km of celebration, discoveries and contagious fun!  The line of cyclists just was endless, and we gave up watching after about 15 mins.


Sat, 2 June 07 – Montreal
Today was fine and cloudy with some humidity.

After a quick continental breakfast at the hotel (bagels & pain au chocolat) we headed into the Tourist Info office downtown to book our 3hr bus trip around Montreal.  The tour was great and covered some of the sights that we had not already seen, eg Olympic Park (built in 1976), Basilique Notre-Dame – fabulous inside the church, so that was great. 

Found how to get into the underground walkways full of shops and eating places - we had a wander through the walkways, had a light lunch, lots of people about both above and below ground  – not so easy to know where you are without regularly viewing any landmarks in the underground though.

Walked down to the river and found the canal – watched two small leisure boats go through the lock, wandered along the waterfront to ‘Cirque de Soleil’ at 3.30pm  – the performances were spectacular and an unforgettable experience. 

We walked back to the Metro station, got the train back to our accommodation, then walked back down to the Rue St-Denis area to for dinner – eat at café Bistro ‘Cote  Soleil’ tonight – nice meal.

 
 

Sun, 3 June 07 – Montreal to Gananoque  (1000 Islands area)
Initially a great sunny day but later in the day it turned into heavy showers as we approached Gananoque.

After a nice breakfast at the hotel we drove up ‘Mont Royal Park’ to get a view of the city from the lookout at the ‘Chalet du mont Royal’ – great view over the city but the city doesn’t really have any dominant features except for their ‘Olympic Stadium’, which is quite impressive.

For lunch we drove to ‘Schwartz’s’ world famous smoked meats (most famous one being corned beef) and had a hot smoked corned beef sandwich with mustard – it was truly yummy, even Annette thought so!!

Driving out of Montreal wasn’t too much of an adventure – very busy roads for the first half hour (early afternoon on a Sunday) - thanks to the GPS again.

Drove down alongside the St Lawrence Seaway and crossed the boarder into the United States (just asked a few simple questions) to get to ’Massena’ to view the ‘Eisenhower Lock’ (all large ships have to go through this lock) – a Security Guard gave us access to the viewing platform as there were no boats due until approx 6.30pm (we were there at around  3.30 pm).  The lock was huge in comparison to the locks we used when we did our canal boat trip in France.

Drove close by to see the St Lawrence ‘FDR Power Station’ at Hawkins Point – half of the power station is in Canada and the other half in the USA – half way across it are USA and Canadian flags flying.

Crossed back over the boarder from the USA into Canada – this time they wanted to look in the boot and glove box of the car!!  We were the only car crossing the boarder at that time so we guessed they needed something to occupy their minds!!

We duly arrived at the Holiday Inn Express in Gananoque and checked in – drove to ‘Anthony’s’, a local restaurant for dinner, but although cheap we found the food very average so didn’t enjoy it very much.

Once back at our accommodation, Graham discovered an e-mail, warning him that someone had hacked into one of his websites, so he was up quite late dealing with this issue.  Annette however, dropped into bed reasonably early as we had been pushing ourselves in both Quebec and Montreal so we were both rather weary.

 

Mon, 4 June 07 – Gananoque  (1000 Islands area)
It’s raining and pouring today!!  Showers all day today.

Graham had been up for a while working on his website issue.  Annette was having a lie in and didn’t wake up until around 9.15am (or that’s what she thought through her blurry eyes when she woke!!) and asked what time breakfast finished – Graham checked and found it was 10am so we were fine.  Soon after Graham realised the time was 10.30am, NOT 9.30am as A had thought - Ooopsy!!   Oh dear we missed breakfast, however Annette phoned reception and they were very happy for us to help ourselves to cereal and a hot drink – thank goodness.    

As we had a late start we purchased some food from the local supermarket for lunch, then went to the local Info Centre to check out boat tours around the islands in the ‘Thousand Islands’ area.  Went to check out the boat tour booking place to ask a few more questions, purchased our tickets for tomorrow morning but instead went on the 3 hr boat trip up the St Lawrence river at 3pm today.  Unfortunately only fine weather for some of the trip, otherwise very low cloud and rain for the remainder, hence the quality of our photos for this trip.   We passed the two large bridges that join Canada and the USA (will travel over them on Wed) and the famous ‘Boldt Castle’ in the mist and rain, but the trip was most enjoyable.

Once back at 6pm we went to enquire / make a booking at one of the local restaurants we had been recommended at the Info Centre, only to find we could go tonight without any problem, so we did then and there, even though we didn’t really feel we were dressed appropriately, but we were assured that was OK.  The food was fabulous:  G had escargots then fish & sweet potato (kumara for us), A had large shrimps (we know these as prawns) on Israeli cuscus followed by fish as well (petit meals).


 

Tues, 5 June 07 – Gananoque  (1000 Islands area)
Another cloudy day with some showers – fine morning / showery afternoon / and a bit windy.

This morning we were up in plenty of time to have our continental breakfast at the hotel!

Initially we drove to the Information Centre to try and book some tickets for the live theatre in Gananoque, as we had been highly recommended one of the current performances - ‘Stompin’ Tom’ – a musical about a famous Canadian folk singer.  Unfortunately the ticket office didn’t open until 11am so we left it and would attempt to book later today.

We drove east up the ‘Thousand Island Parkway’ to Ivy Lea (small village on St Lawrence River) in an attempt to go on a boat trip out to ‘Boldt Castle’ (one that stopped there so one could go through the Castle) - they only run trips in the weekends at present, so we drove onto Rockport – no luck there either.  The one tour boat that normally does was out of action today as they had a transmission problem they had to repair – just our luck!

Further up the Parkway we stopped at Brockville – had a walk around and had a light lunch - G had some more Montreal smoked corned beef (lots of thin slices) with mustard, lettuce, and tomato on a roll (called a ‘Submarine’).   As we started to travel back toward Gananoque, we drove over the large Canadian bridge that is part of the Internation bridge connecting Canada and the USA and went up the ‘Skydeck’ in an elevator (up 400 ft) – what great views of the St Lawrence River and the Thousand Islands area – Graham was very brave to come up, as the tower was swaying a little in the wind, and his legs took a while to stop shaking afterwards!  Along the Parkway there are delightful water views of the river and all the little islands that more often than not have houses on them, many with boat garages. 

Mid afternoon we returned to Gananoque, called into the ‘Playhouse Springer Theatre’ to see if there were seats available for tonight’s performance of ‘Stompin’ Tom’ – there was, so we purchased two for their 8pm performance.

Back to the hotel to catch up on washing, photos and diary and dinner (rotisserie chicken and salads left over from yesterday’s lunch + fruit and strawberries – craving for a simple dinner) prior to going out to the theatre.

A great night at the theatre – this little town of 5000 people has two live theatres adjacent to each other with shows every night except Monday.  We saw “Stompin; Tom” with about 250 others.  It is the story of a very popular Canadian Country/Folk singer and more than half the show was a very good  actor singing his songs.  The show was brilliant and we really enjoyed the live music (A stayed awake for the whole show).