Monthly Archives: September 2014

2014 Trip Six, Sept. 30, Fall in Canada and Deb and Rebecca’s Wedding

Keene, NY, Tuesday Sept. 30

Road trip six of 2014 is about one-half over and we are back in the U.S. The next 9 nights we will be in the Adirondacks of New York State. During our five nights in Montreal, the fall colors in New York have also progressed.

Fall colors in New York

Fall colors in New York

We left Montreal and successfully dealt with detouring around a major ramp from one highway to the next critical highway that was closed to travelers in our direction. We successfully re-entered the U.S. without upsetting any border crossing guards. We successfully found a Best Buy to purchase a new camera since I dropped the camera as I was trying to put the strap around my wrist. It fell onto a granite sidewalk. It broke. This time I bought a service contract that covers drops and falls. Now I will never drop a camera again.

As mentioned in a previous post, the Adirondacks are an extension of the Canadian Shield. This is a unique area. It is not state or national park. It encompasses an area larger than Yosemite, Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks combined. But it is only 48 percent publicly owned, the rest is private. There is a regulatory body to control development. Adirondacks Park has a wide variety of topography but one notable fact is that it has 46 mountains over 4,000 feet in height. Over the next nine days we will drop in additional factoids.

Ausable Chasm

Ausable Chasm

Plattsburgh NY was a stop before our night’s lodging. We ate here, gassed up the car,and re-filled a prescription at a local Walgreens. Our activity for this driving day was a visit to Ausable Chasm. The Ausable River flows from the Adirondacks to Lake Champlain. It is not a huge river but given the elevation drops from the mountains to the Lake, the river has carved a few gorges/chasms and created some waterfalls.

cairns along Ausable Chasm trail

cairns along Ausable Chasm trail

Ausable chasm

Ausable chasm

Ausable Chasm is one of those waterfalls and chasms. It is a privately owned tourist attraction dating back to 1870. It offers trails, scenic views, and a rafting trip through a short portion of the chasm. Our effort to take the raft trip was thwarted though. The falls here also provide hydro power and the power company turned off the tap a short while before we got there. So our trip was limited to hiking.

Ausable Chasm

Ausable Chasm

Ausable Chasm is also where I dropped the camera. This generated a return trip to Plattsburg. Tonight I will charge up the new camera.

We checked into our lodging, the ADK Trail Inn. Not much to comment on yet, it is of the Mom and Pop variety. The Auable River runs behind it and provides some scenic views for us. Dinner was at the ADK Cafe in Keene, down the road about 5 miles from our lodging. We heard their advertisements on Upper NY Public Radio when we were driving in Quebec Province. They are of the type that serves locally raised products, etc. Tonight’s meal was quite tasty.

Ed and Chris Sept. 30 10 pm

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2014 Trip Six, Sept. 29, Fall in Canada and Deb and Rebecca’s Wedding

Montreal, Monday Sept. 29

The Montreal Underground was talked about as a marvel of shops, offices, and restaurants below ground level linking downtown buildings. Without having seen it, we envisioned something grand; some combination of Twin City skyways, Calgary Plus 15s, a San Antonio river walk only enclosed. Maybe we should have left our expectations behind and have just approached it without pre-conceptions.

Looking for underground entrance by convention center

Looking for underground entrance by convention center

There were areas of light, open shopping and restaurants. But they were more limited. We had difficulty finding the entrances. We had a map indicating where entrances were supposed to be. Even with that, signage (to us anyway) was difficult to find.

In the afternoon,we spent 15 minutes wandering around Montreal University’s Sherbrooke Hall where map indicated an entrance should be. Eventually we asked two service workers for assistance just to get out of the building and back onto the street. They directed us to a door we had not used, thinking it was only an emergency exit. Well, it did have French words that seemed to indicate that. Evidently, the alarms only rang at night and on weekends.

When we entered at the convention center first thing in the morning, another supposed entrance, we again needed to find a guide to inform us where it was. Here, the entrance led to a series of underground tunnels without shops, restaurants, or anything. The tunnels were wide and modern, but not many people. After several blocks of wrong turns and dead ends, we made our way to an area of shops, etc.

This, Place Villa Marie, was under a series of modern high-rises and was an obvious shopping area. It even had a Dunkin Donuts where we re-grouped. We decided to head outside and enjoy city architecture. This was the newer downtown, instead of Old Montreal of tourists, with offices, churches, plazas, etc. We wandered for quite a while, making our way up to McGill University and its Redpath Museum.

Redpath Museum

Redpath Museum

McGill is well-respected and large. Redpath Museum goes back to the early days of the institution when an wealthy trustee had the museum built as an inducement to keep the then President John Dawson from accepting an offer from Princeton. Evidently Dawson had a passion for science and was a collector of some renown at that time. Building the museum for Dawson’s collection was sufficient to keep him here. The museum is noted for a large collection of items but for a visitor it was less than exciting. But as a destination, it got us out walking for several hours to reach it and get back.

Sun Life Building in Montreal which in  WWII housed

Sun Life Building in Montreal which in WWII secretly housed Britain’s negotiable securities which were sold over time in NYC to pay for the war

Returning was going to be via the Underground and that Sherbrooke Hall entrance mentioned above. After that abortive effort, we went back outside and eventually found Complexe Desjardins, another complex of high-rise offices with a lower level of shops and restaurants. From here, we had better luck returning to the Convention Center which was only a few blocks away, again by underground tunnels without shops, etc.

So, our day was spent, kind of, doing as we expected, exploring the Montreal Underground. My advice to future visitors, forget it unless it is freezing outside. And check out maps in advance; unlike the Twin Cities skyways, the Underground leaves large swaths of the downtown area unconnected.

Mont  Royal cross

Mont Royal cross

Biosphere

Biosphere

So ends our Montreal portion of the trip. We leave you with two photos of Montreal icons that we saw from a distance, without personally viewing it. The Biosphere is a dome left over from the 1967 Expo with environmental displays. The cross is 100 feet tall and is on top of Mont Royal, looking down on Montreal and McGill University.

Ed and Chris 9/29 10 pm

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2014 Trip Six, Sept. 28, Fall in Canada and Deb and Rebecca’s Wedding

Montreal, Sunday Sept. 28

This is Sunday. It must be time to visit another large church. In case you have not gathered, the French-Canadian history of the province includes a strong dose of Catholicism. It seems that every other town and every third street is named after some saint. And around every corner is another church, famous for some feature.

St. Joseph Oratory

St. Joseph Oratory

Today’s spectacle was St. Joseph Oratory. (An oratory is usually considered similar to a chapel and set aside by ecclesiastical authority for prayer and Mass, frequently for a private or semi-private use. We had to look it up.) St. Joseph Oratory, however, is huge, but not beautiful. Its dome is the second or third largest in the world for Catholic churches, surpassing St. Paul’s in London, Notre-Dame in Paris, St. Patrick’s in NYC, and Sainte-Anne de Beaupre up by Quebec. St. Peter’s in Rome is larger and possibly one in the Ivory Coast.

Inside of St  Joseph  Oratory

Inside of St Joseph Oratory

We went to 11:15 Mass in the crypt (basement) church which only holds about 750-900 people depending on how many you squeeze into the pew. It was in English, one of the few such available to us although the accent made listening a challenge. The main basilica seats 2,200 and supposedly can hold another 10,000 people standing. That last fact seems questionable to me, maybe it includes the outside terrace. The interior seems plain to me, although the sculptures and stained glass are praised.

The Oratory was built due to Brother Andre (now a saint) who joined the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1870 and became famed for extraordinary cures attributed to him. In 1904 a little chapel was built. Construction of the current building began in 1924 and completed in 1955.

Some of the crutches

Some of the crutches

In the votive chapel area of the Oratory are walls with crutches from grateful pilgrims who attribute their cure to him. These are just the ones up to the year 1937 when he died. The temperature in the votive chapel is markedly warmer than the area around it due to the number of candles burning. We did not notice any air-conditioning; not sure how warm the votive chapel gets in summer. This chapel can hold 10,000 votive candles. Not all are burning but we observed a constant stream of people lighting candles.

Pilgrim climbing the stairs

Pilgrim climbing the stairs

We observed a number of pilgrims climbing the 283 stairs on their knees. A center portion of the stairs are reserved for pilgrims. This keeps the pilgrims safe from the 2,000,000 visitors the Oratory receives each year.

Some of the creches on display

Some of the creches on display

At the museum, a display of creches from around the world lined the walls. The diversity and creativity was remarkable; many were made of simple materials indigenous to a region. The display was not heavy with fancy/expensive creches.

Some other interesting facts. The carillon have 56 bells originally made for the Eiffel Tower. Technical difficulties prevented that and generous pilgrims bought the bells and had them installed here. The organ has 5811 pipes. The oratory is named after St. Joseph, the patron saint of Canada.

View from Mont Royal

View from Mont Royal

After our visit, we went to Mont Royal. This park is situated on high ground just east of St. Joseph Oratory. Mont Royal was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead who is well-known for planning NYC’s Central Park. We stopped at one overlook to view Montreal but, frankly, we had walked enough yesterday and seen enough heights and were not impressed by any descriptions of the park to spend further time here. I know,it is ranked highly in travel guides but one needs to set your own priorities.

We turned our car back into the garage, happy to get off the roads and to stop commenting on bicyclists bad habits. But, we did comment to each other the near absolute absence of car horn honking. Given the traffic, the pedestrians, and the bicyclists, there was a wealth of opportunity to sound one’s car horn. But it did not happen. We do not know if it is illegal (for instance,red turns on red are illegal in Montreal) but found nothing to support this theory. Maybe it is just cultural.

Chris' poutine dinner

Chris’ poutine dinner

A late lunch was at a local dive serving poutine and smoked meat sandwiches. Both are local traditional foods and both are over-rated. Poutine is now available in the Twin Cities but we had not tried it before. It is french fries with gravy and cheese curds; Chris added pulled pork to hers. I had the smoked meat sandwich with fries and cole slaw. Smoked meat is basically pastrami. We can say we tried it and can put the memory behind us. This one at least was inside an open-air courtyard between two buildings. Many of the cafes stick a couple of tables on a wood frame floor constructed for this purpose and using 3/4 of the sidewalk. People get squeezed into the remaining 2 feet of sidewalk.

Ed and Chris 9/28 7 pm

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2014 Trip Six, Sept. 27, Fall in Canada and Deb and Rebecca’s Wedding

Montreal Saturday Sept.27

I wonder how many gazillion photos and videos are taken each day? We certainly took more than our share today. Another gorgeous day, sunny, slight wind, and temps ranging from 60-80. We were up and out to spend the day at the Olympic Park/Biodome/Olympic Tower/Botanical Garden all right next to each other.

The Olympic  Tower

The Olympic Tower

The 1976 Summer Olympics were held in Montreal, and as usual for such events, bunches of money were spent to spruce up the town and build new arenas, etc. Olympic Park was the host area for most of the games. The Tower was built as part of the stadium, the velodrome was converted to today’s Biodome, and other facilities were constructed in this Olympic Park area. When we visited today, construction maintenance was visible in many areas. I will not go into details about the stadium; it has had numerous construction issues and its major tenant, Major League Baseball Expos departed at the end of 2004 for Washington D.C.

View from  Tower towards downtown Montreal

View from Tower towards downtown Montreal

Our first stop was the Olympic Tower. We arrived in the parking lot at 9:07 A.M. and were the first car parked in this cavernous, underground parking garage. The Olympic Tower is the tallest inclined structure in the world-this claim is Guinness World Record certified. It is at a 45 degree angle! The Leaning Tower of Pisa is only 5 degrees. It is 540 feet high. The glass enclosed funicular that takes you to the top can hold 76 people. We were the only two in our ride up.

Olympic Tower and the funicular  that brings you to the top

Olympic Tower and the funicular that brings you to the top

Picture taking was great. The glass on the enclosed cabin was clean, although the glass at the observatory level 540 feet was pretty buggy. The windows do swing open and window cleaners attach a safety harness when they lean out to clean the glass. (I asked, not that we observed them doing it.) Smog in the area was quite visible over the downtown but still you could see in all directions.

Biodome: Macaw from tropical rainforest area

Biodome: Macaw from tropical rainforest area

Of course this is not cheap. Montreal must not subsidize its civic attractions. The cost to visit the Tower, the Biodome and the Botanical Garden was $50 for one person plus $15 for parking. We made sure to make a full day of activities here.

Biodome: Beaver posing for visitors

Biodome: Beaver posing for visitors

The Biodome could be summarized as an indoor conservatory and zoo. It has separate regions such as tropical rainforest, Canadian forest, sub-polar regions and a display about earth’s formation and fossils. As we walked along the pathway, we also watched the numerous families enjoying a day’s outing.

Olympic Tower, Stadium, RIngs, medals stand

Olympic Tower, Stadium, Rings, medals stand

Back outside, we wandered around Olympic Park. Olympic Park now consists of the Tower, Biodome, the stadium, planetarium, ice arena, outdoor stadium, tennis courts, sports clinics and outdoor entertainment areas, etc. We walked over to the corner where the Olympic Rings and logo were now located.

For lunch, we went exploring down the major street that brought us to Olympic Park. On our drive here we had not been focusing on restaurants, simply destination. We picked a direction and luckily came across a local restaurant within two blocks of Olympic Park. It was a nice combination of fast food burgers (Ed) and sit down breakfast service (Chris). I took one of the basic options listed on the display board and managed to order and pay without confusion. The place was crowded, one set of four guys who were in loading up on lunch were from a team working on setting up logistics for Sunday’s Montreal Marathon. We had just heard about it and will need to adjust our Sunday activities to not get caught in street closings.

Botanical Gardens

Botanical Gardens

Botanical Gardens

Botanical Gardens

The Montreal Botanical Garden is across the street from Olympic Park. The largest area of display is more like an arboretum with walking paths through various species of trees and shrubs. Indoors, they have displays of bonsai, tropical plants, desert plants, etc. The University of Montreal has a section devoted to biodiversity.

Botanical Gardens

Botanical Gardens

Montreal Botanical Gardens

Montreal Botanical Gardens

Back outside, the Gardens have a Japanese Garden, Chinese Garden, and First Nations Garden. Special display gardens included sections on toxic plants, medicinal plants, perennials, useful plants, shrubs, lilacs, etc. We spent several hours wandering around the gardens and under the tree-shaded canopy, periodically relaxing in the chairs and benches scattered throughout. Other people had the same idea, we came across individuals just sitting and reading in their favorite chair.

Montreal Botanical Gardens: What you can do with just leaf and red lettuce

Montreal Botanical Gardens: What you can do with just leaf and red lettuce

There was a dilemma though. The Gardens have an illuminated display in the Japanese and Chinese Gardens beginning at dusk. That was still a few hours away. In addition, the car was parked a few blocks away in the huge underground garage that might not be inviting to walk to when it was dark. We decided to walk to the car now, find another restaurant for a light snack and re-park the car in the Gardens parking lot.

Montreal Botanical Garden

Montreal Botanical Garden

Down the street in the other direction we found a Tim Horton’s and shared a sandwich and their hot kettle chips. Dessert was a donut and milk. Back at the Gardens, we parked in the lot easily and returned for more strolling and sitting. We chose a bench facing the setting sun and with many like-minded folks, most of whom had cameras, waited out the sunset.

Chinese Garden at dusk

Chinese Garden at dusk

As dusk was coming on, we headed back to the Japanese and Chinese gardens. Wow. All of a sudden all of Montreal had arrived at the Gardens. This night of illuminations is a big deal. Throngs were crowding the paths. Where did they all come from? The areas we had just inhabited, while people were present, were nothing like this. Well, they were coming just for the evening display and paying full price. Even when we left at 8 P.M., there were several hundred people still lined up to get their tickets.

Montreal Botanical Gardens: Chinese Garden at sunset

Montreal Botanical Gardens: Chinese Garden at sunset

Japanese Garden at night at Montreal Botanical Gardens

Japanese Garden at night at Montreal Botanical Gardens

The Chinese garden area was bright and colorful with lighted lanterns and fanciful lighted animals decorating the pathways. We slogged along in the slow-moving crowd, taking our pictures and waiting for others to take theirs. The Japanese garden was shadows and light, soft music and lights fading in and out on trees and shrubs. The Garden website, listed below, has a brief video highlighting the illuminations that you might be interested in. (The show runs from Sept. 5 to Nov. 2.)

http://espacepourlavie.ca/en/botanical-garden

Moving our car was a smart decision. It was dark and the lot here was swarming with cars driving around the aisles waiting to pounce on an open spot. Our ride back to the hotel gave us a chance to experience urban traffic, including bicyclists (it was still 70 degrees out) of whom only two of 30-40 were using lights. Teamwork driving was essential to spot street names, bicyclists, road work, etc. Luckily we have practice at that.

Ed and Chris Sunday 9/28 9:30 A.M

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2014 Trip Six, Sept. 26, Fall in Canada and Deb and Rebecca’s Wedding

Montreal Friday Sept. 26, 2014

Today was our allocated day for history type museums. Surprisingly, one church falls into that category. The Notre -Dame Basilica on weekdays makes itself over into a tourist stop. Masses are held in a chapel and the Eucharist is removed from the main church to the chapel. Instead, a $5 admission is charged and hordes of tourist come through, take their pictures, and go on guided tours. That was certainly true today as hordes flocked through the church this morning and the square outside was even busier when we walked by this afternoon.

Notre-Dame Basilica or Montreal

Notre-Dame Basilica or Montreal

The history of the church is interweaved with that of Montreal. Montreal was founded in 1642 by a small group of people from France planning to build an ideal community and convert the native people to Catholicism. The original name was Ville-Marie, City of Mary.

People of Quebec were skeptical due to the town’s close proximity to the Iroquois who were British allies and frequently attached settlers. Initially, a good number of the colonists died due to Indian attacks. But the city prospered, as we know from Thunder Bay and Grand Portage, partially due to being a center for the fur trade. Now there are 1.6 million in Montreal with 3.8 million in the metro area. Quebec has been left in the dust although Toronto is larger.

Notre-Dame Basilica  of Montreal

Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal

So the town prospered, as did the church of Notre-Dame. Originally founded by Jesuits, the Sulpicians arrived in 1657 and still serve the church today. The original chapel was replaced by a stone church seating over 1000. That still was not large enough and the present church was built between 1824-1829 and seats 3200. The architect was an Irish Protestant from New York who moved to Montreal, converted to Catholicism, and died just a few months after its opening.

Notre Dame Basilica

Notre Dame Basilica

The church interior has a blue hue, the color associated with Mary. Much of the interior decoration was added after the church was completed. The altar has numerous statues. French made stained glass windows were added in 1929. The stations of the cross are intricate carvings. The organ has 7000 pipes.

Bronze sculpture in chapel

Bronze sculpture in chapel

The church added a chapel seating several hundred in the late 1800s. Kind of hard to have an intimate funeral or wedding in a church seating 3200. However, an arsonist burnt the chapel in 1978 and it has been re-built. Only two of the stained glass windows survived. The front of the re-built chapel has a huge, modern bronze sculpture piece.

The Notre-Dame Basilica was actually our second stop. First, we made a quick visit to City Hall, where Charles de Gaulle in 1969 stated: Vive le Quebec libre. Long live Free Quebec. This was during a state visit during the time when tensions were rising about Quebec declaring its independence. (Side note: There were two plebiscites on the issue. Both lost but the second one in 1995 lost by a slim margin of 50.6 to 49.4. 94% of eligible voters turned out.)

City Hall was built between 1872 and 1878. The lobby and Council Chambers were open for viewing. We were surprised to see so many official seats until we read that the Council has 64 members and a mayor. Evidently much work must be delegated since it only meets 11 times a year.

Our major stop for the day was the Montreal Archaeology and History Complex. Complex is the correct term. It is built on the site of the actual remains of the city’s birthplace. It occupies four buildings, connected by underground exhibitions taking you through the stone foundations of early buildings including the first cemetery and first marketplace.

Exhibit at Montreal Archaeology and History Complex

Exhibit at Montreal Archaeology and History Complex

First time visitors view a 20 minute multi-media show summarizing the history of Montreal. The city is built on an island and the initial settlement was on a point of the island where the Little River joined the St. Lawrence River. As further development occurred, the new buildings were built over the original ones. Our tour walks you past some of the stone foundations and the initial sewer pipes. The Little River was the first sewer. The pipes were not constructed for quite some time and replaced the Little River.

Archaeology and history complex

Archaeology and history complex

Twice we had to get directions and/or retrace our steps including the most important part of the day when we had lunch at their cafe. Turns out, the cafe is in the first building and when we were hungry we were in building two, or three, or four. We made it to the cafe in time to get one of the few tables open to touristy type people who had not made reservations. Excellent food again. These people use seasonings and spices!! Who knew the flavor that can come from seasonings?

Ah, Marco Polo knew about spices. Sounds like a weird connection does it not? But the Montreal Archaeology and History Complex was hosting a special exhibit on Marco Polo. Our tour guide was a young man who was heavily involved in the exhibit and his enthusiasm was infectious. Most of us had heard of Marco Polo but we certainly had not read his book about his travels from 1271 when he was 17 to 1295 when he was 41.

The exhibit reminded us how little known the East was to Europe at that time, how many advancements it had over Europe, and how daunting such a journey must have been. While goods had traveled the spice road from Asia to Europe for quite some time, the goods were transported by different traders, each for a segment of the route. Polo traveled by land to China and returned by sea.

Polo’s written descriptions were the first writings describing many of these areas to Europeans; not only China, but Vietnam, India, Indonesia, etc. His tale was actually “dictated” to a scribe when Polo was in prison. Venice was at war with Genoa when he returned from China and Polo went to war as a Venetian and was captured and imprisoned. His cellmate wrote down Polo’s adventures and the book was published when the cellmate was released (a year before Polo was). It became a hit and was translated into many languages. Polo’s writings were one of the reasons Christopher Columbus was looking for China when he “discovered” America. Our tour guide was exuberant as he related the route, the people and cultures Polo encountered, and the life in China under Kublai Khan.

Chateau Ramezay Montreal

Chateau Ramezay Montreal

But the day was getting on and so did we. After a stroll along the streets of Old Montreal, we came to Chateau Ramezay. This building was built in 1705 by the first Governor General of Montreal. It is now a museum that details the life during this French colonial era. There is a mention of the American occupation of Montreal in 1775 before their defeat in Quebec City. The museum celebrates the French culture of Montreal.

By now, it was late afternoon and we had put in a full day. My attention was less than perfect so we decided to call an end to museum time. We did enjoy the sun and people watching for a while before heading back to the hotel. A late dinner was at a local restaurant on St. Paul Street where we sat outside and watched the world go by while we ate flammekueches, basically a French thin bread version of pizza. Once again we watched, and did not do much listening to conversations as most of them were in French. We do know that tourists come here from all over, though. Our basilica tour had visitors from India, Australia, UK, Japan and Ukraine besides the states.

Ed and Chris 9/26 11:20 PM

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2014 Trip Six, Sept. 25, Fall in Canada and Deb & Rebecca’s Wedding

Montreal, Thursday Sept. 25

Well it was a beautiful day. Our first day of temperatures in the 70’s since we left St. Paul two and one-half weeks ago. Despite a four hour drive, we put the weather to good use.

Kingston is at the head of the St. Lawrence River as it takes water from the Great Lakes and dumps it into the Atlantic Ocean. The river was “improved” in the 1950s with a series of locks and dams to create the St. Lawrence Seaway, allowing ships to travel to Duluth. The St. Lawrence was one of the great exploration routes of early explorers like Cartier and Champlain.

St. Lawrence River and islands

St. Lawrence River and islands

At Kingston, the river’s geology is such that there are numerous islands in the river. The Canadian Shield runs south across the river to the Adirondacks, creating these islands. Thousand Islands is an understatement, like calling MN the Land of 10,000 Lakes. In both cases there is a definition of what qualifies as an island (two trees growing on the land which is above water all year) or a lake (minimum size of ten acres). There are actually over 1800 islands in the river and there are almost 12,000 lakes greater than ten acres in MN.

The Kingston area is home to the greatest prevalence of these islands. The Treaty of 1793 led to a resolution of the border between Canada and the U.S. Drawing part of the U.S./Canada boundary line in the St. Lawrence generated a need to divide up the islands. Canada received 2/3 of the islands but the land area for each country is roughly equal.

Small islands with homes

Small islands with homes

That small bridge actually connects a Canadian island with a U.S. island

That small bridge actually connects a Canadian island with a U.S. island

We drove a half hour to Ganonoque to take a 2.5 hour cruise on the river. The cruise took us in and out of Canadian and U.S. waters by islands large and small. Some of the larger islands have power and phone service brought by underwater cables. Parts of the area have been recreational homes for generations, dating back to the U.S. robber baron era when industrialists from New York, Cleveland, Chicago and Pittsburg summered here.

Bold't Castle and outbuildings

Boldt’s Castle and outbuildings

The cruise ship circled one island where George Boldt, the owner of the NYC hotel, Waldorf Astoria, built a castle for his wife. But since she died before it was finished, it remained uncompleted for decades until the Seaway Authority took it over to make it into a tourist destination. The legend has it that 1000 Island dressing originated by someone here (versions vary) who gave it to Boldt who introduced it at his hotel.

A home on the only island artificially constructed by connecting three shoals

A home on the only island artificially constructed by connecting three shoals

After the cruise, we drove to Montreal. This time we plotted our directions to the new hotel precisely. Good thing. The last 10 minutes involved numerous one-way streets, partially on butt-busting, auto shock challenging cobblestone streets. The SpringHill Suites Old Montreal is (as its name suggests) in the Old Montreal area. This is the historic district rampant with tourists. The car is parked for several days as we walk around the area.

Ed on Rue St. Paul street with cobblestones

Ed on Rue St. Paul with cobblestones

Along  Jacques Cartier Place

Along Jacques Cartier Place

Our first foray into Montreal gave us enough daylight to tour part of the area around the hotel without time for any museums or historical sites. More of that will take place tomorrow.

Along the Old Port area

Along the Old Port area

Clock  Tower WWI Memorial along St. Lawrence River

Clock Tower WWI Memorial along St. Lawrence River

Dinner was at a restaurant in which Charles Dickens wrote the notes for “A Tale of Two Cities” in May of 1842.

Ed and Chris 9/25 10:15 pm

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2014 Trip Six, Sept. 24, Fall in Canada and Deb and Rebecca’s Wedding

Kingston, ON Wednesday Sept 24

Beautiful time in Quebec province and we still have 5 nights in Montreal to look forward to. Everyone was nice and we had no problems in making ourselves understood in Quebec Province. But we have to say, it is nice walking in to a restaurant or hotel and speaking English right off the bat. I am sure this is a self-inflicted problem, but so be it. We are who we are.

View from top of Mont Tremblant mountain

View from top of Mont Tremblant mountain

Our decision yesterday to hold off on the gondola ride was justified by today’s weather. It has been gorgeous and we began the morning by riding the gondola to the top of Mont-Tremblant mountain. The gondolas ride was smooth and the gondola moves quickly. However, it is enclosed with windows of a plastic type material that is cloudy and scratched, making for poor pictures. A small window might open to give you limited picture-taking opportunities. The gondola in Banff gave great pictures, I can not remember now if Banff was open or just great glass but the images from there are vastly superior.

Gondola window shot Mont Tremblant Lake

Gondola window shot Mont Tremblant Lake

Luckily we planned to hike the upper level also. We climbed a lookout tower and shot the video below. The noise in the background of the video is the wind.

Next was the 360 trail which winds around the mountain top. It starts on a gravel road and then alternates between the grassy fields of the winter ski slopes with trails that again are muddy, rocky, and with tree roots. The mountain has ski trails going downhill in all directions. Today’s path came with the extra feature of rain run-off using the trail as its route to lower ground. Nevertheless, the hike was good exercise and provided sunny views for a change.

The 360 trail on Mont Tremblant

The 360 trail on Mont Tremblant

This trail, and the ones the last few days, were ranked as easy. We have come to understand that Canadian and American park trail definitions differ. An easy trail in an American park would be a paved, level, handicap accessible trail. Not so here.

Views from the top

Views from the top

Views from the top

Views from the top

Views from the top

Views from the top

Montebello was our mid-day destination. You may recall we stopped here for chocolate on our drive to Quebec City. A different target today, though. We ate lunch at Aux-Chantignoles, the restaurant at the Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello. A waiter in Quebec City had said we should go back and eat here.

Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello

Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello

This place is something else. It was built in the 1930s as a private business and political leaders retreat, which it remained for 40 years. World leaders have met here. It reminded us of the great US National Park lodges at Glacier, Mt. Rainier, Yosemite, etc.

Ottawa River from Fairmont Montebello

Ottawa River from Fairmont Montebello

A Wikipedia note about its construction states that the crews worked around the clock to accomplish the work in 4 months. Since working on the Sabbath was frowned upon, the local cure’ received an all expense paid trip to Rome for two months. The place is frequently described as the world’s largest log cabin since 10,000 red cedar logs from British Columbia comprise the building’s structure. The logs are painted black on the exterior but are natural inside.

Lobby  of Fairmont Chateau Le Montebello

Lobby of Fairmont Chateau Le Montebello

We had the lunch buffet (one hot and one cold buffet) which pretty much used up our meal budget for the day. The dessert selection made up for the cost. We each had two helpings of several desserts each time. After lunch we walked around the grounds which are situated on the banks of the Ottawa River.

Then it was on to Kingston, situated at the eastern end of Lake Ontario and the beginning of the St. Lawrence River and Thousand Islands area. First we had to cross the Ottawa River which took some doing. We knew (kinda) that there was a bridge at Grenville. We drove the slow route to Grenville, it was not supposed to be that far but our understanding of Canada town structure is lacking. It seemed that we passed through at least three city (well, maybe village) centers named Grenville before finally coming to the bridge.

As we crossed over the Ottawa River we returned to more level land, primarily agricultural with small towns and our usual two lane roads. For the last 120 miles, we drove a four lane, 100 kph road heavy with truck traffic as we entered a more urban area of Ontario. The rocky ground replaced at least a portion of the agricultural land.

Fall colors are less plentiful since the Ottawa River area, but not non-existent. Shrubs, in particular, are showing bright colors. Pockets of brilliant red trees show up.

Ed and Chris 9/25 5 AM

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2014 Trip Six, Sept. 23, Fall in Canada and Deb and Rebecca’s Wedding

Tuesday, Sept 23, Mont-Tremblant,QC

That darn American work ethic. Even though we jokingly say our current jobs are as travelers and we do this 7 days a week for 4-7 weeks at a time; I have to remind myself periodically that it is okay to not be doing activities from morning until night. Of course, Chris helps to remind me.

Mountain top to right and to center are covered by clouds

Mountain top to right and to center are covered by clouds

Today, for instance, the top of the mountain was socked in by low clouds and instead of the planned afternoon hike, we took a nap and watched the clouds go by and the leaf colors on the mountain opposite our time share while snacking on popcorn. It was relaxing and enjoyable too.

View from small gondola

View from small gondola

The day began at the resort center (cutesy village) which has a small gondola that transports people from the lower village by the parking area to the top of the village by the big gondola that goes to the summit of the mountain. This small gondola is free and a nice diversion which provides an elevated view of the mountains, shops and lodging.

On the Ruisseaux trail

On the Ruisseaux trail

Our morning hike took two hours. The Ruisseaux trail is also known as the muddy trail. They could add stone, tree root, and muddy trail. The trail takes you along a stream, up the mountain for a ways through the forest and back down by a water fall. You pass across and under the path for one of the chair lifts for skiers in winter. Several deer were on that path. We have skipped most of the photo opportunities for deer. Between Crosby Farm Park at home and our travels, deer are almost like big squirrels now.

Waterfall on the side trail

Waterfall on the side trail

There was a side trail from the Ruisseaux trail that offered another waterfall viewing opportunity so we added it. Along the path, we met a very nice couple from Ottawa who have been married for 55 years. They are both originally from Germany and still retain a German accent.

Waterfall at end of Ruisseaux trail

Waterfall at end of Ruisseaux trail

The waterfall was pleasant but less dramatic than the one at the end of the Ruisseaux trail. Still between the extra exercise, the Ottawa couple and the waterfall, we were glad we took the side trail.

End of day view with clearing skies

End of day view with clearing skies

“Lunch” was back at the crepe restaurant for dessert/fruit crepes. One each was necessary to regain our strength.

Fountain one block from  our lodging

Fountain one block from our lodging

Ed and Chris 9/23 8:45 pm

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2014 Trip Six, Sept. 22, Fall in Canada and Deb and Rebecca’s Wedding

Mont-tremblant, QC Monday Sept. 22 2014

Alberta-provincial parks. British Columbia-provincial parks. Manitoba-provincial parks. Ontario-provincial parks. Etc. Except Quebec. Quebec-Quebec national parks. Why the difference, which caused confusion for us, was never explained to me. I chalk it up to the desire of Quebec to be its own nation and not just a province of Canada. A day admission fee is also more expensive than it was in Ontario.

Why do I bring this up? Well, we spent the day visiting Parc National du Mont-Tremblant. This park is the oldest in Quebec and close to our lodgings. As we drove up to the gate and gave them our Parks Canada annual pass, the gate-keeper politely told us it was no good and fork over $15. Which we did. Our goal was to spend much of the day looking for fall color and more waterfalls.

Mont-Tremblant Park. Indicative of our day. Rain to left, sun to right.

Mont-Tremblant Park. Indicative of our day. Rain to left, sun to right.

Hiking and driving through the park met our goals. Of course, the day was: “Rain, no rain, rain, no rain, sun, rain, no rain.” We spent five hours here and found great color. Reds were brilliant, not washed out. The oranges were bright, not marginal. The greens of the fir trees and late bloomers provided excellent contrast. Most of the pictures are a little more muted due to rain and/or cloud cover.

Fall Color in the Laurentian Mountains

Fall Color in the Laurentian Mountains

Buck in Mont-Tremblant park

Buck in Mont-Tremblant park

Despite signs warning of moose, we did not see any moose. We did see a number of deer, one with his antlers. The park did not have many people present. I found this surprising given its closeness to Montreal and the leaf colors. Possibly bus tours are discouraged by the fact that half of the road we traversed was gravel.

Mont Tremblant Park

Mont Tremblant Park

Mont Tremblant Park

Mont Tremblant Park

Chute-du-Diable

Chute-du-Diable

We took several short hikes mainly to waterfalls. Our first waterfall was more of a rapids, Chutes-Croches. The second was a nice waterfall, reminiscent of MN’s North Shore, the Chute-du-Diable. The road we drove was essentially a circle route; the fourth leg being on a local road that had great color also.

a section of road through Mont Tremblant Park

a section of road through Mont Tremblant Park

Dinner was in the village and back to our lodging for the night.

The mountains are alive with color

The mountains are alive with color

Ed and Chris 9/22 9:00 pm

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2014 Trip Six, Sept. 21, Fall in Canada and Deb and Rebecca’s Wedding

Mont-tremblant, Quebec Sunday Sept. 21

On the road for two weeks and fall colors are finally starting to pop out. We left Quebec in clouds and drove through rain, heavy at times to reach Mont-tremblant. There was one Canadian historic site along the way we wanted to visit but like many places up here, and in other northern tourist areas, it shut down for the season Sept. 1. So the drive was not exciting until the last hour or so as we drove up the Laurentian Mountains.

Mont-tremblant mountain and village from our unit

Mont-tremblant mountain and village from our unit

For the Laurentian, think Appalachian or Smoky Mountains. The highest point in the Laurentian is about 3800 feet. Mont-tremblant is 3000 feet. The elevation gain makes for interesting driving. Steady rain lower down, up here becomes misty and mixes in with low clouds to provide not quite foggy driving conditions with very little view above you. The Adirondacks in New York are actually an extension of the Laurentian Mountains.

Fall leaf color as seen from our  unit

Fall leaf color as seen from our unit

We could observe trees with greater color once we were about 100 miles out of Quebec. We kept hoping for an opportunity to take photos but the rain and lack of pull-overs made that impossible. As we drove up, we thought, well, Monday is supposed to be sunny so we should get some great shots then. As always, the weather forecast is changing. What was forecast as a sunny day for Monday has changed to mainly cloudy and then partly cloudy on Tuesday with a freeze at night.

The drive here gave me another opportunity to complain to Chris about (other) drivers. Speeding through construction zones was frequent. To me, it seemed that the proportion of drivers only using daytime running lights was abnormally high. With the rain and the mist, it was difficult to see cars in front of you if they did not have their rear lights lit.

Entrance to Mont-tremblant ski village

Entrance to Mont-tremblant ski village

We checked in at our lodging, Club Intrawest. It is a timeshare affiliated with Hilton. We have a one bedroom loft with jacuzzi tub and a patio on the second floor of a block of ten units. From our patio we can view the Mont-tremblant ski slope and village. The literature in the room says this place was started by a guy from Philly and by Lowell Thomas, the journalist. They installed one of the first mechanical ski lifts in North America and the boom began. The area reminds us of Park City, Utah or Whisler, BC. There are condos, timeshares and hotels and cutesy shops at the bottom of the slope.

Street scene from cutesy village

Street scene from cutesy village

The town hosts numerous events through the year. Right now, there is a 10 day event of programming for active epicureans (people much more into food than us). The town hosts FOUR Ironman competitions here during the summer. The last one was September 7. We were too late to enter it.

Fall colors

Fall colors

Fall colors

Fall colors

A crepe dinner was our reward for a day of driving followed by shopping for miscellaneous groceries for the timeshare unit. The skies alternated between raining and trying to clear up and
afforded us several opportunities to snap some good photos.

Fall colors

Fall colors

Ed and Chris Sept 21 9:10 pm

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