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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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