Montreal – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 15

s usual we were up and out of the hotel early, first touring the now very quiet Quebec City in the car. I always enjoy checking out cities early on weekend mornings, with few people around, it is the perfect time for photography – no traffic, lots of street parking, and few people to get in the pictures.

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Even the old town was free of traffic and people.

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We left Québec City for breakfast at a Tim Hortons in the suburbs. looking for our oatmeal and croissants. The servers addressed us in French since we were away from the tourist area but quickly switched to English, completing our order and sending us to the area to pick it up. The oatmeal was ready a few minutes later but when I went to pick up my order the server rattled off something in French, which resulted in me giving him a startled look. He then look amusingly at us and said “English?” and said that the fruit for my oatmeal is on the bottom.

Once we hit the freeway we began to pass many of the support vehicles for the bike race, but at least they didn’t block the road…

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After breakfast we drove about two hours to get to Montreal, the largest city in the Quebec province, and easily the largest city we had seen since leaving Boston a week ago. The city is on the Island of Montreal, which both city and island are named from Mount Royal. We entered the city via Pont Lafontaine and tunnel

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We traveled about the city trying to find the Olympic Park Tower. Accessible by a funicular, The Montreal Tower built in 1976 to host the Olympic Games is the tallest inclined tower in the world, rising 540 feet at a 45-degree angle.  At its peak, you can admire the Montréal area for a distance of 50 miles. We did not take the incline to the top because we were unable to find parking, so we admired it from the street and moved on to see the rest of the city.

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We headed downtown, past McGill University, and on the areas with numerous high rise buildings, before heading up the hill to Mount Royal.

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Finding parking we took the trail to the scenic overlook of the city from Mount Royal was filled with many tourists, including us. The overlook provided a panoramic view of the city from our park perch, with a chalet that was constructed in 1932 as the hilltop centerpiece. The building hosts various events with a view of Montreal’s skyline. The inside of the building seemed austere and cold with the abundance of stone in comparison to the beautiful gardens and park setting outside, although the wood ceiling was quite nice

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On the south side of the building, there is a bricked courtyard where a piano sat available for any guest to play. A few people tried to play a short tune on the bright orange instrument. Others meandered about the gardens and exercised in the open area.

The overlook from Mount Royal is the ‘tourist shot’ of Montreal, so we joined all the other tourists for the view.

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Notre Dame Island is a man-made island in the St. Lawrence River once part of the World Fair, Expo 67 and the site of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve race track that is used for the Canadian Grand Prix.  Originally named the Île Notre-Dame Circuit, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve was built and finished in 1978 and remains today.

Since the track goes through a park you can drive it, albeit at 20 MPH. The last time I was in Montreal I did this, but it was pouring down rain and I wanted to go back on a sunny day. However the hassle of the traffic and detours from construction made it difficult for us to get to the racetrack so we snapped a few photos of Montreal as we drove around.

Once we had cruised through Old Montreal, and continued to run into blocked roads either for the upcoming bike race, the same one we ran into the day before in Quebec City, or just construction, we decided to start for home.

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Our route home had us pass through the province of Ontario to the Thousand Island Bridge an international bridge crossing over the Saint Lawrence River connecting northern New York with southeastern Ontario in Canada, breezing through customs with only two questions asked of us and a glance of our passports.

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As we continued across the New York State Thruway we could see storm clouds gathering. After a brief rest area stop we decided that even with good weather it would be midnight before we reached Columbus so we decided to take a slight detour to Niagara Falls and spend the night. The storm caught up to us for a short time but we managed to get to the Hampton Inn before the heavy wind, rain, and lightning hit. We had pizza delivered to our hotel room from a local shop and settled in for the night.

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Quebec – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 14

Another long day, but this one had great promise, so we left the Delta Hotel in Fredericton before dawn. It was rainy and cool that morning but the forecast predicted warm weather. After a brief Tim Hortons breakfast stop for oatmeal and a croissant, we were back on the road for 55 miles to see the longest covered bridge in the world. The wooden bridge is 1,282 feet long located in Hartland, New Brunswick and crosses the St. John River to Somerville. The Hartland covered bridge is truly the longest covered bridge that I have ever seen.

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It seemed as if we had entered a tunnel as we drove through it. I learned that the bridge is actually seven small bridges joined together on six piers. The bridge is only one lane and we had to wait our turn to cross back to Hartland.

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Next up was Grand Falls, New Brunswick, which has a gorge in the center of the city that is used as a hydroelectric generating station. The gorge is the top attraction in the area, with a number of attractions surrounding it. We arrived before the Malabeam Center opened so we peered into the gorge from the zip line hut.

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The Malabeam Center gives tours climbing down 401 steps to see the wells within the rocks and tells the legend of Malobiannah for which the center is named. The story is of a young Maliseet woman who was captured by the Mohawks and forced to lead a war party to her village. The Mohawks promised she would live if she led them to the village but knowing how to navigate the Saint John River, Malobiannah guided a war party of forty canoes and 300 Mohawk to their death over Grand Falls.  Malobiannah sacrificed herself to save her people. A statue of a young Maliseet woman with and oar stands at the front of the center.

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Grand Falls is also the home of Ron Turcotte, a retired Canadian thoroughbred race horse jockey, best known as the rider of Secretariat, winner of the U.S. Triple Crown in 1973, and arguably the best race horse in history. A bronze statue of Ron racing Secretariat was featured in the middle of the boulevard. A plaque commemorating the famous race stood next to the statue, with his story in both French and English.

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Arriving at the border of Quebec, the visitor center guides were very helpful in providing maps and information for us to find Pohenegamook. Pohenegamook is a very small village on the border of Quebec, Canada and the United States.

The Pork and Beans War was a confrontation in 1838–1839 between the United States and the United Kingdom over the international boundary between the British colony of New Brunswick and the US state of Maine including the Pohenegamook area. With no shots ever being fired, the Pork and Bean war was more of a dispute, but resulted in a new border.

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The Mitchell Map was used as a primary map source during the Treaty of Paris of 1783 for defining the boundaries of the United States. Negotiations in 1842 between the countries referred to “Mitchell’s map”, which generally supported the American case as evidence that the entire disputed area was on the American side of the border.

The historic border dispute ended when the United States and British North America (now Canada) signed the Webster–Ashburton Treaty in 1842 under John Tyler’s presidency. Canada was unhappy, however, it viewed the treaty as the British improving relations with the United States by permitting American territory to separate Lower Canada from the Maritimes.

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Now the Quebec-Maine border cuts straight alongside a local street in Pohenegamook, putting houses close to the street in Canada, and those set back a few yards from it in the U.S. — with some houses split between the two borders.

Along one road you can see a Gulf Gast station 100 yards down the road, with the only access from Canada, however the station and pumps are in the U.S. This frustrates the locals as the gas is about 50% cheaper there, but they have to go through an extensive process to ‘enter’ the U.S. to go to the gas station that is in their backyard, with no fence, or any other physical barrier in sight

We drove the border road, to the railroad bridge near a small park. A stone marker in the park stood at the border showing street side as Canada and the yard of some of the houses in the USA. A bridge crossed the river between the USA and Canada. Flags of both nations flew at each end of the bridge. A State of Maine flag hung at one end of the bridge while a Quebec flag hung at the opposite end of the bridge.

A U.S. border inspection station stood a short distance from the park. So we actually sneaked into the United States the back way through Canada avoiding the border patrol because the true border angles away from the street at the park. Most amusing is one house which appears to have their front rooms in Canada and the rest of the house in the United States.

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Heading further into Quebec, we drove for almost three hours to an area twenty-five miles outside of Quebec City to St. Anne’s Canyon to see a powerful waterfall higher than Niagara Falls splash over rocks millions years old.

St Anne’s Canyon is a private park with a number of options for entertainment, as well as a having a small cafe that provided us lunch before our walk on the trail to the falls. After struggling a bit with the French language (a recurring theme) trying to understand the lunch specials, we managed to get chicken soup and sandwich, then headed out to see the falls.

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The trail looped us around the cliff top of the canyon to vistas overlooking the waterfall. The thunderous waterfall could be heard before seen raging over gigantic black rocks.

A suspension bridge crossed above the top of the falls for a bird’s eye view allowing us to continue our walk to the next vista for a closer look of the water that crashed so violently onto the rocks that the water sprayed up onto us and onto the trail.

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The second suspension bridge granted us a direct front view of the falls. This bridge really tested my fear of heights, so I requested a photo for proof I was there.

The waterfall looked amazing from the suspension bridge but even more wondrous was the fact that the substantial water force was only one-tenth the amount of water that flowed in early spring.

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It was hard to imagine so much more water barreling through that tight canyon. The trail led us down 187 steps to the third suspension bridge about fifteen feet above the river. The bouncy suspension bridge offered a view from the lowest level and the rocky river. We climbed the steps to reach the trail again for the last vista of the falls. Sainte-Anne Canyon also had wooden sculpted animals that we viewed before leaving.

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As we left to head back towards Quebec City and Montmorency Falls, we were treated with some great views.

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A few minutes drive brought us to Montmorency Falls, a tremendously voluminous waterfall, the highest in Quebec Province and higher than Niagara and Sainte-Anne Canyon. This waterfall is used in hydroelectricity so the flow is controlled. The waterfall is massive in size and reminds me of the extended width of Niagara Falls. We entered the park and walked through the welcome center to get to the trail and boardwalk.

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We were able to walk the entire trail including the very high viewing tower and the trail to the other side of the falls via a suspension bridge. Anyone walking the trail near the bottom of the falls got wet from the spray. Some daring ones ended up soaking wet just walking near the river to the front bottom steps of the tower.

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As we continuing trekking along we each guessed the number of steps to the top of the viewing tower which we had to climb to continue the trail. Mine was 250 steps, hers was 460 steps.  After reaching the last viewing deck where the cable car landed for a closer look of the waterfall, we started our return trip on the trail back down the tower steps.  As we climbed down the tower, I counted 475 steps; clearly I lost that wager. We got our exercise in for that day with over one thousand steps just to see two waterfalls.

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From here we had another great view of the city

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It was about a half hour drive to the provincial capital, Quebec City, from Montmorency Falls. Quebec City is the second largest city in the province and traffic was a mess when we arrived. The old adage you can’t there from here was true, no matter how I tried to maneuver around the streets to reach the Marriott Hotel.

We could see the hotel from where we sat but traffic prevented us from getting there. After circling the block again and thirty minutes of waiting in a jam, a traffic cop allowed us to get through the closed access to reach the hotel, gladly dropping off car with the valet and going inside to check in.

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The roads were closed for a bicycle race that ended just prior to our arrival.  We were eager to see the city so we immediately left the hotel and walked into Old Québec across the square from our hotel. Old Québec is a historic neighborhood comprising the upper town and lower town. Québec Ciy is one of the oldest cities in North America.

We roamed passed the Citadelle of Québec also known as La Citadelle, an active military installation and official residence of both the Canadian monarch (the Queen Elizabeth II of England) and the Governor General of Canada. The citadel is an uneven star shape and comprises four towers with 24 buildings constructed within its walls of cut stone. We did not tour the citadel but walked the promenade with the stationed canons and window wells into the past. Sections of the garrison wall still stand where we joined others atop the ruin for a beautiful view of the city.

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Old Quebec City is a collection of well-kept shops of thriving businesses catering to tourists. Luckily, the French shop owners spoke excellent English so it was easy to ask questions and converse with people.

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An Italian restaurant called Parmesan is where we stopped for dinner. The waiter spoke French and English and escorted us into an empty restaurant, where we dined on lamb in rosemary sauce and filet mignon.

It felt a bit odd to be the only customers but that soon vanished with the aid of an accordionist who entertained us in a charming room with bouquets of flowers in small glass bottles that hung from the ceiling. The accordion player spoke perfect English. His repertoire though included songs in English, French, Spanish and Italian. We learned that he was born in Rome, grew up in Montréal, and had been to the United States many times. His electric accordion produced multiple instrument sounds. At times we heard the accordion, saxophone, and guitar. He also had a smooth voice singing varied genres of music from Edith Piaf to John Lennon. It was a lovely evening of entertainment and good food.

The warm beautiful evening allowed us to walk the lit streets and see the city at night. Eventually we went to a pastry shop for gelato. We admired the architecture of the pastry shop with its high ceilings and large windows as well as all the ancient structures of Old Québec while we walked back to our hotel.

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Quebec City – May 2011 – Even Wetter

Our brief trip to Quebec started out on a foggy, wet morning in Montreal. As we headed up to Quebec City the rain continued.

As we arrived in Quebec City we walked around the old town past the Chateau Fronteau and the palisades.

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Later we made our way down the incline to the lower part of the old town. Despite the weather Quebec City is a great place to visit and we enjoyed our day there.

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Having been soaked from that we headed out of town to Montmorency Falls, where we were exposed to even more water, and a flooded park.

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Montreal – May 2011 – Wet Canadians

After the long train ride the day before from Pittsburgh it was nice to be back in a car. We left Boston northbound, passing through New Hampshire on the way to Quebec. The highlight of New Hampshire was Franconia Notch.

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Eventually we reached Quebec.

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A couple of hours later and we were in downtown Montreal.

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Once there one of my first stops was Ile Notre Dame, where the F1 track is. While you can drive it, slowly, we had arrived via the Metro subways so we walked around on it.

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The 1967 World’s Fair was held here, and some decorative art remains.

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Old Montreal is the most touristy area of town.

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We had on and off showers which dulled the view from Mount Royal.

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Eventually we took the steps down the mountain to our hotel.

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The next day had even more rain, but as we left town we did a lap of the track in the car.

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