Friday, September 1, 2017

Adventures in La Belle Province

Next up on my posts celebrating Canada's big 150 birthday is Quebec.  Quebec has been part of Canada since confederation in 1867.  That's not to say they all of them still want to be part of Canada. Referendums were held in 1980 and 1995 to vote whether to remain in Canada.  They are still with us.  Quebec is the second most populous province in Canada having a population of over 8 million people.


My very first trip to La Belle Province was when I was an almost 21-year-old visiting my cousin in Montreal. (four months before my adventure in Hay River)   I will spare you the Instamatic pictures but only because I can't find the photo album...I was then briefly there in 1989 for an amazing Paul McCartney concert.  In 1993 I visited my niece who was then attending McGill University and stayed with her in her university dorm.  I was entertained by her pet rat Chanasky who was a doll (I adore rodents!) and kept stealing from a bag of candy I had brought when he thought I wasn't looking. Sorry no photos of Chan either (I hear sighs of relief from many...) but where do these photo albums go?  I have a ton of them on shelves but not the ones I need for my blog.

In 1997 I was in Montreal on a business trip, filling in for someone who had to cancel at the very last minute.  This person had booked to stay just two nights and due to the Montreal film festival being on I couldn't change the flight.  So I skipped the meals with the other members of the project team because I was sick to death of the sight of them (truth!) plus I wanted to explore!  I made it to the Botanical gardens and wandered around a bit but the trip was frustratingly short.  And I must say the reason for the trip was the absolute worst project I have ever been on.  I am so glad my work life is behind me.

In 2012 I visited Quebec again..after a walking convention in Ottawa.  So these are the photos I will use.  First stop was Montreal which was just a couple of hours by bus from Ottawa.

Montreal and surrounding area has a population of approximately four million people and is the second most populated city in Canada.  Its official language is French although it is very diverse with nationalities from all over the world calling it home.  Despite five years of French in school my grasp of the language now is pretty darn sad - my favourite phrase being "parlez vous anglais"?  Despite what I've heard to the contrary I never had any problems with speaking English in either Montreal or Quebec City.

Here's an overview of what I did in a couple of days in Montreal...

1. Visited a local coffee shop or two... (and I don't mean Tim Horton's or Starbucks)  One of the great things about solo travel..I can stop at a coffee shop anytime I please.  I either fire up the Wi-Fi on my phone, pull out my kindle or take out an old fashioned map and figure out where the heck I am and where I'm going.  I love supporting local businesses as well.

2.  Wandered around Vieux (Old) Montreal.  I got caught in the rain the first day on this latest trip but it was a good opportunity to wander into the Montreal museum - recommended.  Remember: only witches melt in the rain. I went back the next day to snoop around a bit more and it was a sunny day.  Note:  Old Montreal is pretty underwhelming compared to Quebec my humble opinion that is...

I love history and can't resist visiting city museums...this one was interesting and I learned a lot.

Notre Dame Basilica of Montreal - Gothic Revival church built in 1829.

3) Visited the Biodome:  The relentless rain on that first day was getting me down.  Now I am not adverse to rain; I've carried on with walks in it loads of times over the years. However, this was heavy rain and despite my handy dandy well traveled gor-tex jacket I was soaked. Fed up, I finally said "enough!" and headed to the Biodome where it didn't matter if it was raining.  The Biodome ("house of life") is in the Olympic Park (it was originally a building in the 1976 Olympics) and was opened in 1992.  It houses diverse ecosystems of the Americas from the Tropical rain forests of South America to the Labrador coast.   I remember going to see it back in 1993 when it was shiny and new and being totally blown away.  It is still amazing and I highly recommend it.  I think everybody had the same idea on this rainy day as it was pretty crowded.

I have seen puffins in the wild but never this close!

A cavy from South America...adorable!

4) Tried the local food:  Montreal is known for its smoked meat sandwiches and of course there is always poutine.   Dunns is a good place as any to sample Montreal fare.

And why not follow it with dessert...a delicious piece of cheesecake.  (oink)

5. Walked around a neighbourhood.  Montreal has the coolest residential buildings with spiraling staircases.

6. Walked around downtown admiring sculptures 

I loved this cute statue in downtown Montreal.

Then there was this very different one. Explanation below.

Alrighty then....There are lots of activities and places to see downtown. As I've always said go downtown and you will see the soul of a place.  Suburbs and their malls are boring. Been to one, been to them all.

7.  Visited a bagel bakery and grabbed some to take home 

This is one of the more famous Montreal bagel bakeries...and token dog picture. (I think the dog was probably drooling and I don't blame it one little bit)

8.  Walked in Mount Royal Park.  It's beautiful but I did not do it justice.  I wanted to walk the paths I really did but I was worn out.  Did I mention I had just completed a half marathon (21 km/13.1 miles) in Ottawa the previous Sunday?  I really want to walk up to the cross on the top of Mount Royal.  Just because it's there and what a view it would be.

9.  Walked along the Lachine Canal (a little bit) and visited the nearby Atwater Market:  My dorm was nearby so this was handy for me.  And bonus that it was off the usual tourist radar.

There is so much more to see there.  Two days is not enough but it had to do. While Montreal is not a city that grabs my heart I did enjoy my time there and would love to go back again someday soon. Once "Thelma" my knee is in good working order I plan to visit friends in Ottawa and Montreal is only a couple of hours away by bus....Perhaps I could land a pet sitting job or stay at an airbnb at one of those delightful homes.  

Quebec City 

I've been to Quebec City twice - for the first time in 2005 and then again in 2012. The first time was for a walking conference.  While the walks were great and I enjoyed going for meals with friends the thing I remember the most was the emotions of that weekend trip.  I was relieved when my hotel roommate (and walking friend) went out for walks I opted out of - so I could have my crying time... My beloved dog Sandy had died only a short three weeks before and I was absolutely devastated.

When the walking conference was in Ottawa in 2012 I decided to extend the trip and not only to visit Montreal and head south to walk the capital of Vermont (Montpelier) but to return to Quebec City and see it with a clear head. (well as clear as mine gets...I have a Masters degree in day dreaming) I am so glad I did!

Highlights for me were:

1. Visiting the Plains of Abraham:   This is located in Battle field park.  This location is where the troops of General Wolfe of Britain defeated the troops of Marquis de Montcalm of France giving Britain control of what was to become Canada on September 13th, 1759.

2. Wandering around the lower town

Okay this was taken before I went down to the lower Old Town.

And this is how I went down...

Looking back towards the funicular...and the Chateau Frontenac...but we're not quite ready to go back up yet...'s time for a cafe au lait...and a macaron...or two...

This is one of the murals in the lower town depicting the history of the area with modern characters interspersed. 

3.  Walking around the Upper Town

The Provincial Legislative Building 

The famous Chateau Frontenac 

Part of the remaining fortifications of Quebec City

I loved this building; then again my favourite colour is turquoise blue!

Walking along the city walls is always fun no matter where you are.

This was the hotel I stayed in.  I prefer airbnb as I love living in local neighbourhoods but when I am in a place for only two nights or so I opt for a hotel in the centre.

4. Feasted on traditional food 

Okay, any self respecting Quebecois wouldn't be caught dead within twenty feet of this place I'm sure as it screams tourist!  However I sure enjoyed it.  I came here with some walking friends in 2005 and liked it so much I went back.  The building itself is the oldest in Quebec, constructed in 1675-76.
On both visits I have had the set menu for $19.95 and it was delicious.

It comes with house wine and a choice of different French Canadian options.

Of course I had to start with the pea soup....

Quebec meat pie with trimmings. (I can't remember what most of the trimmings were..except good)

And Maple Syrup pie to finish off.  Delish!!

I certainly hope my travels take me back to Quebec some day.  As much as I hate winter the Quebec Winter Carnival in Quebec City is on the bucket list as well as exploring more of that gorgeous city.  And I still need to do some hiking in Mount Royal park and have another fresh Montreal bagel. (I buy the frozen ones shipped here but it's not the same!)

Another great big adventure coming right up! (2019 version)

Yes, it's time to hit the road again for my annual multi-month adventure.  This time I will be away just less than three months. I don&...