Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday, August 19, through Thursday, August 23, 2012: Five Days in Eastern Canada:
It was an easy 169 miles to St. Philippe, Quebec.  We crossed into Canada just outside Champlain, near the New York/Vermont border.

The agent at the border was very accommodating.  That means he believed Becky when, in response to his asking whether we had any alcohol on board, she said we were carrying only a couple of bottles of wine.

We are staying at La Cle des Champs (“the Key to the Fields“ ?---my French is very bad) RV Park, a very nice place in the middle of nowhere.

We are surrounded by corn and soy bean farms.  The closest city is Montreal, which we will visit on Monday.

On the way here today, I realized that, while in the rest of Canada the signs are in both English and French out of respect for the French Canadians in Eastern Canada, the signs here are only in French.  Rather rude.  But that’s the French.

The visit to Montreal was very interesting.  After driving by the main Olympic Village area (the ‘76 Summer Olympics)

which had a few dramatic building designs, we stayed mostly in the “old port” area---next to the St. Lawrence River.

It has many beautiful old buildings, some large not-so-beautiful new buildings along the shore, cobblestone streets, and lots of shops.  The centerpiece is the Place Jacques Cartier, lined with restaurants and other typical tourist shops, and featuring a memorial to Lord Nelson.

The guide book suggested that the restaurants at the Place were neither cheap nor good.  We tested the theory by having lunch at Le Fripon

which was indeed not cheap, but the food was excellent.  (I had mussels and fries.)  And we enjoyed watching the passing parade of tourists from our table at the edge of the sidewalk.

We also stopped at the lovely Notre Dame Basilica, which had a large crowd assembled outside---just to enter the building.  We passed.

And we drove by a demonstration at the City Hall, but we could not decipher the signs so we have no idea what was being protested.

We also walked through the Bonsecours Market, a series of upscale shops housed in a huge, beautiful building that was the Montreal City Hall in the 19th century.

The parking guy at the port decided that our pickup truck deserved being treated like a real truck, and charged us a flat $20.00 instead of the much cheaper hourly rate applicable to cars.  Rude!

By the way, the streets in and around Montreal are uniformly awful---the worst we have driven on anywhere.  I’m surprised we have any suspension left.

Tuesday was another travel day, this time another 169 miles to the Quebec City area.  We are staying at the Camping Transit RV Park in Levis, a suburb of QC, just across the St. Lawrence River.

It’s a nice park, not as fancy as the last one, but the sites are wider, there’s a lot more grass, and it has a more open feeling. We visited Levis Tuesday afternoon,

walking (with Ramsey, of course) along the riverbank in a nice park.  The city, itself, is nothing special, but it has hills that I didn’t expect and has, therefore, some nice views of the river and QC across the way.

Wednesday, we took the Pierre Laporte Bridge over to Quebec City.  We stayed mostly in and near the (old) walled portion of the city.  It's the only city north of Mexico City on this continent that is walled. 

How's that for a significant fact?  We visited the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac, one of the old super-deluxe hotels built by the Canadian Pacific Railroad (as were the Banff Springs Hotel and the Chateau Lake Louise, which are now also run by the Fairmont people).  It's huge, fabulous, and much too complex. 

Not an easy place to enjoy wandering in, therefore.  It's purported to be the most photographed hotel in the world.  I have no basis for disagreement.

On the long boardwalk along a palisade below the hotel, there are musicians, great views of the St. Lawrence River ("Fleuve St. Laurent" in French), and gazebos with people just hanging out.  Very pleasant.

We "hiked" the Governor's Promenade, a recent addition which takes you from the boardwalk up to the grounds of the Citadel---the old fort area.  The Promenade has 310 steps to climb on its more than 750-yard length. 

The city was founded by Samuel de Champlain in 1635, and the old part has a distinctly French flavor.  It is just charming.  Along the Grand Allee, which takes you into the walled part of the city, there are an unbroken series of sidewalk cafes/restaurants on the ground floor of stunningly beautiful apartments and hotels.

We decided to take the ferry back to Levis.  It was a quick ten minutes.  That saved about a half hour of driving.  A very good idea.

That was it for Wednesday.  Tomorrow we head back to the Montreal area for a quick stop on our way west.

Thursday was another 169-mile day back to St. Philippe and La Cle des Champs RV Park near Montreal.  We were assigned the site right next to the site we had earlier this week.  It was like being home again. 

We took advantage of the proximity to a nearby Costco to load up on stuff, again.  It had been a while.

Tomorrow, we will be back in New York for a brief visit.

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