Written by MagdaDH_AlexH on 20 Nov, 2010
I think I need to explain the idea behind this journal. I suppose the title: the centre and the periphery makes it self-explanatory to some degree: it's about juxtaposition, it's about contrast, it's about diversity. But there is more to it than just that. After…Read More
I think I need to explain the idea behind this journal. I suppose the title: the centre and the periphery makes it self-explanatory to some degree: it's about juxtaposition, it's about contrast, it's about diversity. But there is more to it than just that. After all I could have picked any two places, one small and one big, or one at the east and one at the west extreme of the country. I think that Ottawa and Sioux Lookout work rather well together though. One is the the capital city of Canada, with a metro population of over a one and a half million people, one is a tiny municipality with about five thousand people.But they are both in Ontario: Ottawa lies at the eastern edge of that largest (and arguably, the most archetypical Canadian) province, across the river from its sister Quebecois city of Gatineau. Sioux Lookout is in north-western Ontario, near (at least by Canadian Shield standards) to the Manitoba border. Ottawa is multi-ethnic and international, with one in five people who live there born outside Canada, and only 1.5% indigenous Canadian. One in three inhabitants of Sioux Lookout are of Aboriginal origin. Ottawa is a central administration hub, and yet Sioux Lookout is a major public services town for the First Nations' reserves in a vast area of north-western Ontario. I have been wondering – and I still wonder – which of the two is the face of the 'real Canada'? Majority of people in that vast country live in urban centres, mostly of the eastern seaboard. The Francophone/Anglophone dynamic that is such a defining feature of eastern Canada, and is so well represented by the simmering conflict between Toronto and Montreal is also represented by the unity in division of Ottawa and Gatineau. And yet, huge areas of land in Canada lie on the Canadian Shield, a semi-circle of post-glacial, rocky land covered in thin soil, full of lakes, rocks and boreal forest (and further north, the tundra). Logging and mining, hunting for moose and fishing for trout, Indian trappers and Mounties are all part of the Canadian archetype, as much – no, much more than – the multi-ethnic metropolis of the industrial east, Ottawa is representative of the people, but Sioux Lookout, and all that is around it, stands for the land of large area of Canada, and for much of its soul. And when I say large, it really is enormous. It takes 30 hours by train to travel from Ottawa to Sioux Lookout (via Toronto). In the straight line, it's over 800 miles (or over 1,300km), and you still have not even left Ontario! There is nothing like taking a train through the boundless expanse of the Canadian Shield to get a feeling for the actual size of the place, the landscape, the feel of the country as it passes you by in a mesmerising rhythm beaten by the wheels of the train. Close
Written by tvordj on 11 Oct, 2010
We were only spending a couple of days in Toronto, Canada's largest city. We arrived on Saturday and got to the Strathcona Hotel after 9 p.m. Tired from traveling (he from England and me from Nova Scotia), we just ordered room service and got some…Read More
We were only spending a couple of days in Toronto, Canada's largest city. We arrived on Saturday and got to the Strathcona Hotel after 9 p.m. Tired from traveling (he from England and me from Nova Scotia), we just ordered room service and got some rest. Sunday was a low key day. We met some friends for brunch in the hotel and then went to a pub for the afternoon, meeting up with a group of about 30 friends. It was a lovely chance to catch up and relax. When we left there, we caught the subway down Yonge Street, and walked along the busy part of Toronto though Dundas Square (Toronto's answer to Times Square) and downtown where the skyscrapers got taller and taller. A coffee stop to sustain us and then back to the hotel to rest our feet. We ate at the chain restaurant Jack Astor's that night as it was just around the corner from the hotel. Monday was a dreary looking day. We had a few things in mind to do. We did plan on taking a hop-on-hop-off bus tour but had changed our minds. However, when walking down Front Street, we got chatting to a young woman who was selling tickets for the bus tour and we ended up going on it after all. It was good, with an informative and somewhat cheeky guide. We got off near the Art Gallery of Ontario but our prime objective was to explore Chinatown and the Kensington Market nearby. We wandered Dundas St. W. and looked in some of the Chinese stores and markets and found some lovely chrysanthemum tea in a tea shop. The woman in the shop recommended a restaurant just a few doors down for a dim sum lunch so we ate there. No idea what we were eating but it was an adventure and we liked everything we picked!From there, we walked a bit further and came to Kensington Ave. which is the main street in the Kensington Market, our other goal for the day. This is a funky neighbourhood, lined with shops in old houses, selling vintage clothing and crafts, with lots of fruit and veg shops, cafes and restaurants. Graham wanted to find a leather jacket and we spied one store that had quite a lot of vintage leather. He found one but it was too big and despaired that another was not on the racks but with a bit of persistence he did find something that fit him perfectly for a more than reasonable price. Result! We stopped into a little bakery that really was just a take out and catering place but they had a couple of stools and we had coffee and cake there before walking some more. We made our way out of that area and walked another half hour through some nice streets back to the AGO to pick up the tour bus again. We bought CN Tower tickets at a little discount from the tour operator because we had planned to do the tower as well. 10% is better than nothing and it means no waiting in queues! Up, up, up you go! IT's the tallest public observation platform in the world and it's very high up! We only went to the main level, not the skypod which is another hundred feet or more up. When you're that high up, there's not a lot of difference. The views are spectacular, even on a dreary day! We had a coffee in the restaurant and by the time we got to ground it had started to rain. The tower isn't far from our hotel so we didn't get too wet. We ate in the hotel pub that evening and later met up with some friends for a few drinks at a pub/restaurant called C'est What. They've got an extensive beer menu, none of it from the large commercial breweries. It's all local or craft brewed! We didn't eat there but i think the food would probably be good too. Close
Written by Ana Astri-O'Reilly on 12 Jul, 2010
Casa Loma is Toronto’s only castle. It is located at 1 Austin Terrace at the top of a hill that dominates the city. The views are fantastic! Casa Loma is easily reached by public transport. Since it was such a lovely day, I decided to…Read More
Casa Loma is Toronto’s only castle. It is located at 1 Austin Terrace at the top of a hill that dominates the city. The views are fantastic! Casa Loma is easily reached by public transport. Since it was such a lovely day, I decided to take the subway to Spadina and walk the rest of the way. I strolled along Spadina Avenue enjoying the peace and quiet of the Annex North neighbourhood. Spadina Avenues seems to end at Davenport but it actually goes round the hill. In order to get to Casa Loma, I climbed the Baldwin Steps up the hill. They were named after former Ontario premier and landowner Robert Baldwin. The steps are set among lovely gardens with lots of fragrant flowers. The path at the top of the stairs is also well-kept and has comfortable benches. I saw people walking their dogs, jogging and relaxing. Casa Loma was built by in 1911Sir Henry Pellatt, a Canadian captain of industry. It cost a staggering 3.5 million dollars. From the outside it looks like a medieval castle. The Great Hall has a big fireplace, an organ and banners hanging from wood beams. There are secret passageways, hidden doors and a museum devoted to the Queens Own Rifles displaying uniforms and memorabilia from the 1800s to the two world wars and the current Iraq / Afghanistan war. Visitors can pick up handsets for the self-guided tour at the Great Hall. It was a rather warm day and since there is no air conditioning, they scattered huge heavy-duty fans around the place. That and the many tourist and school groups made the visit somewhat uncomfortable for me. Especially when I climbed the narrow wooden stairs to the top of one of the turrets and was suddenly surrounded by keyed up thirteen-year-olds! Of all the rooms, my favourite were the Conservatory, Lady Pellatt’s sitting room and bedroom and the gardens. The bathrooms were huge and had all the latest gadgets, including bidets!I took a stroll around the delightful gardens in full bloom. There was a couple having their photos taken for their wedding album, that’s how pretty the gardens are! And the view of Toronto is breathtaking. Close
Written by Ana Astri-O'Reilly on 07 Jun, 2010
The Financial District is located in downtown Toronto and it is also the financial heart of Canada. Roughly, its boundaries are Queen Street West to the north, Yonge Street to the east, Front Street to the south, and University Avenue to the west.It is very…Read More
The Financial District is located in downtown Toronto and it is also the financial heart of Canada. Roughly, its boundaries are Queen Street West to the north, Yonge Street to the east, Front Street to the south, and University Avenue to the west.It is very easy to get to with Toronto’s handy public transport network. Because we were staying in Mississauga, I always took the bus to Islington subway station and then the subway to Union Station. It is said that Union Station is the busiest passenger transportation facility in Canada. It didn’t seem so when I was there but then again it wasn’t rush hour. I took a few minutes to see the station. It was built in the Beaux-Arts style and was opened in 1927 by the Prince of Wales. My favourite feature was the coffered vault ceiling. I walked down Front Street and admired the stately Fairmont Royal York Hotel. On a previous visit, I took the PATH (the city’s underground walkway that joins different buildings, hotels and entertainment venues along its 28 kilometres) and walked straight into the elegant lobby. It was such a pleasant surprise! I had a crick in the neck from looking up at all those glass and metal buildings. I liked looking at the fleeting reflections of the clouds and sunlight on the windows. The Allen Lambert Galleria is a sight not to be missed. It isn’t called the "crystal cathedral of commerce" for nothing. This atrium, designed by the renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, connects Bay Street with Heritage Square. It certainly reminded me of vaulting in the great Gothic cathedrals, albeit a lot more luminous. There isn’t a lot to see in the Financial District unless you’re a hockey fan, in which case you’ll head straight to the Hockey Hall of Fame (30 Yonge St.), or a shopaholic (then it’s a tossup between Eaton Centre at 220 Yonge Street or The Bay, 176 Yonge St). However, I thoroughly enjoyed walking alongside busy people and pretending I was busy too.The highlight of this visit was joining the lunchtime crowd at Nathan Phillips Square. The Bay Street side is lined with food carts selling mainly hot dogs, poutine and ice cream. I got the mandatory Toronto hotdog (grilled, not boiled) and a drink and sat at one of the concrete tables. It was interesting to watch busy office workers, students, pensioners and tourists grabbing a quick bite in the warm spring sunshine. Close
Written by Ana Astri-O'Reilly on 18 May, 2010
Cabbagetown is a lovely neighbourhood northwest of Downtown Toronto. It is easily reached by subway (Sherbourne or Castle Frank.) The name had its origins in the customs of its early residents, Irish settlers, who planted vegetables in their front gardens. And the Irish influence can…Read More
Cabbagetown is a lovely neighbourhood northwest of Downtown Toronto. It is easily reached by subway (Sherbourne or Castle Frank.) The name had its origins in the customs of its early residents, Irish settlers, who planted vegetables in their front gardens. And the Irish influence can still be seen in the names of some streets. Originally a working class enclave, nowadays it’s a sedate and stylish neighbourhood. The tree-lined streets snake around lovely parks, the Toronto Necropolis and Riverdale Farm. Some of the homes have the Cabbagetown flag on the front. The flag has vertical dark green stripes at the sides and the central white stripe has a green cabbage in the centre. On a sunny spring morning I took the Bloor-Danforth subway line to Castle Frank station. I had a short stroll around the streets behind the station as the houses were beautiful. I then walked west on Bloor St. to Parliament St. as far as Wellesley St. The architectural style along Wellesley is predominantly Victorian, although there are some Georgian and Arts and Crafts examples as well. The houses are beautifully preserved, the front gardens were a riot of colour: red, yellow and pink tulips, daffodils, delphiniums and many other flowers caught my eye as I walked past. I must have taken dozens and dozens of photos of flowers!I turned right onto Sumach St. and entered the Toronto Necropolis, one of the oldest cemeteries in the city. The Gothic Revival chapel, built in 1872, reminded me of the Addam’s Family home. The place was quiet and oddly comforting. I don’t know exactly why but I always make a point of visiting the local cemetery and read the headstones. Across the street is Riverdale Farm. This working farm is run by the City of Toronto and admission is free. There’s everything you’ll find on a farm: a barn with a cow and a few sheep, hens, rabbits, Clydesdale horses, pigs, the whole enchilada. It’s very popular with young families and tourists. There’s a seasonal farmer’s market but it wasn’t open that day. The gardens took my breath away. Daffodils and tulips are my favourite flowers and I was in heaven; I’d never seen so many (well, maybe in Jersey.) I was mesmerised by the incredibly beautiful flower beds. I managed to tear myself away from them to see the rest of the farm. The children were fascinated by the animals, as were some tourists. A guy was terrified of the lonely cow, but the poor thing was tethered to the wall! Anyway, after a leisurely walk around the farm I repaired to the Farm Kitchen, where I had good coffee and delicious homemade cookies while I rested my weary feet. Close
Written by MilwVon on 21 Aug, 2009
In terms of my free time in Toronto, the Afternoon Niagara Falls tour that I did was a highlight! Some of my friends were going to blow off Tuesday's meetings and educational sessions to do the full "day" tour (10 hours) but I simply…Read More
In terms of my free time in Toronto, the Afternoon Niagara Falls tour that I did was a highlight! Some of my friends were going to blow off Tuesday's meetings and educational sessions to do the full "day" tour (10 hours) but I simply could not justify it. I could, however, make the afternoon tour on Monday since the conference schedule was pretty wide open to include a three hour "lunch and expo" slot right in the middle of the early afternoon.I booked with Toronto Tours rather than Gray Line because of their pricing and what looked to be a nice offering of stops during the day. While I don't know what they did on the other company(ies) offering Niagara Falls tours, I can tell you that several in our group of 17 felt like Toronto Tours did a lot of nickel and diming especially at Niagara Falls. I will get to that shortly.The tour company's shuttle service picked me up at the Hilton Hotel and took me to the departure point at the Fairmont Royal York. Given the close proximity to the convention center, had I known that was the plan I could have walked over from the center to the pick up point rather than hustling to my hotel to meet my shuttle driver. No worries, though.We departed the Fairmont shortly after 1:00pm for our ten hour adventure. Niagara Falls is roughly 80-85 miles from downtown Toronto, probably a 90-100 minute drive under normal driving conditions (no traffic, weather or accidents). Our tour vehicle was a comfy 24 passenger mini-coach. For our group of 17, it had just the right amount of room and comfort.Our first stop was at the Niagara College where they teach wine making and business management. It was a small campus that had limited onsite dormitories and a full teaching kitchen for their culinary school. Of course, to teach wine making, they also had a vineyard with both red and white varieties of grapes.Inside we were treated to a tasting inside their wine tasting laboratory. It was there that students learn to recognize the color, aroma and taste of wines produced in this region of Canada. On the day of our visit we sampled a chardonnay and a cabernet sauvignon. While both were very good, what I enjoyed most was the "ice wine" . . . a sweet but potent wine made after the grapes had been frozen on the vine for approximately three days. Picked while still frozen solid, the sweetness of the grapes' juices are held creating the extra sweet flavored wine.With an opportunity to buy in their store, several folks took advantage of supporting the local college!From Niagara College we were about 20 minutes from the entrance into Niagara Falls Park. With no admission fees charged to enter, you need not worry. They find plenty of ways to make money off the tourists and visitors!!!Our first stop inside the park was for those who may want to take a helicopter tour of the falls. At approximately 12 minutes for $95 (CDN) nobody in our group was interested . . . so we headed on to the Niagara Whirlpool. It is here that the Niagara River flows into a U-turn of sorts, which creates the whirlpool action at the bend. Folks who would like to see the area from above may take the cable car across the river gorge for $11 (CDN). Most in our group did participate in that activity. For those of us who choose to stay ashore, there was a gift shop, snack bar and restrooms to occupy the 30 minutes or so.With cable car rides and photos taken, it was on to the world famous Canadian Falls, also known as the horseshoe falls because of their horseshow shape. The roar of the water and the mist in the air, Niagara Falls never ceases to amaze me. I have been here three or four times, dating back to the early 1980's and each time, I leave in awe of the experience.At the stop here (known at Tablerock), folks had another opportunity for an ala carte experience, the Journey Behind the Falls. At $13 (CDN) per person, the ala carte prices were beginning to mount! It was nice that our tour guide Wayne was able to take us through the "tour groups only" entrance bypassing what appeared to be a good hour wait.Donned in our slick yellow rain ponchos, it was down into the bowels of the walls of Niagara Falls. The tunnels provided an opportunity to go right up and under the rushing water, less than five feet in front of you through an open portal. It was very loud!Around the other direction, there was a walk-out and landing area where you could see the waterfalls a bit more up close, to include the Maid of the Mist boats below. (More on those to follow.)The yellow rain ponchos didn't seem to do much good as I seemed to have gotten pretty wet just from the water that splashed my face and ran down my neck.After we all completed this portion of the tour, we climbed back aboard the tour bus and headed for the Maid of the Mist boat launch. Finally something that was included in our tour package price! For those who are visiting independently, this was also a $13 (CDN) experience.Unfortunately no cutting through to a "tour groups only" entrance, but the long line did seem to move pretty fast. I think we were lined up for roughly 30-45 minutes before it was our turn to climb onto the Maid of the Mist for our 20 minute ride into the mist of the rushing falls. It was very exciting to be that close to the water and to feel the turbulence beneath the boat. Again, ponchos (this time blue) were no match for the amount of water in the air.With the boat tour and excitement pretty much over for the day, it was off to the Riverview International Buffet for dinner at 7:30pm. Not much as a buffet, it was nice to be inside and enjoying a bite to eat with others in the group. An ice cold beverage after being out in the 90f + heat & humidity, was right on time.After our dinner it was approaching nightfall and time for the illumination of the falls. What a treat our group got, getting to go up into the lighting tower and serving as the "Niagara Falls Illuminators" for the evening. We even got certificates to prove it!The lighting equipment looked like something out of a 1940's movie, although today the colors are controlled and orchestrated by computers. It was fun, however, creating our own beautiful light show on the falls.With the evening coming to an end, we headed back to Toronto. I was dropped off at my door step at 11:15pm. WHEW . . . what a long day!Toronto Tours charges $169 (CDN) for their 10 hour Niagara Falls tours (day or afternoon). If you book online, however, there is a 25% discount available. Some in our group booked through their hotels and paid a premium so if you're considering doing this tour, be sure to do your homework on their web site and book direct!All in all, a great experience and fun day. Close
Written by Vanilla Sugar on 29 May, 2009
The distant sound of the heavy clop of horses’ hoofs grew louder and louder, then faded in a soft rhythmic beat. Buggy wheels crunched the loose stones on the road. Inside the buggy’s black box, I could see a man with the reigns in…Read More
The distant sound of the heavy clop of horses’ hoofs grew louder and louder, then faded in a soft rhythmic beat. Buggy wheels crunched the loose stones on the road. Inside the buggy’s black box, I could see a man with the reigns in his hand. Beside him sat a woman wearing a traditional bonnet. The children seated in the rear turned in curiosity; but man and woman gazed straight ahead as if to not acknowledge our buggy – a blindingly bright chrome Prevost coach. The buggies were common place in Macton, our motor home was not.The rural community of Macton, Ontario lies north of the Canadian city of Kitchener. Although Kitchener happened to be our destination, our arrival late in the day meant Ed and I went looking for a place to boondock for the night. Our Roadtrek factory tour would wait until the next morning. While considering one church parking lot, I met Cleason. He parked his heavy duty black truck and flatbed rig parallel to our coach. Was he looking for an overnight parking spot too? Surely not so I decided to ask him for suggestions on where we could boondock for a night. He quickly assessed the current church lot. In a voice with a German accent, he said, "This lot has too much of a slope. You could park at my farm." The unexpected hospitality of this stranger surprised me. When he started to ramble off directions, my eyes glazed over with all the turns here and there. He would have lead the way but he still had some work to do, "I’ve got to get that bulldozer over there on my truck and haul it a ways." "Your house sounds a bit of a distance away," Ed interjected. "How about a closer, quiet church lot in the country?"Cleason beamed, "I have just the place. You’ll like St. Joseph’s Church in Macton. You might even see a few Mennonite buggies or two." For this place, Cleason wrote the directions on a page of our spiral bound notebook kept handy just for these occasions.Cleason’s directions took us through a grid of right turns on rural two lane roads through Ontario’s Mennonite Country. We passed huge farm houses, planted fields, meticulously maintained barns, lines of family laundry waving in the breeze, red tulip gardens in blossom, and some buggies. "The Church will be on the left, you can’t miss it," I read the last line of Cleason’s directions. He added his cell phone number just in case we did miss it.St. James Roman Catholic Church stands in the Township of Peel in Wellington County on Highway 86. Erected in 1878 and now designated as a Peel Historic Site, St. James Church remains a solid remnant of the early Irish settlers – The Connollys, O’Neils, McCardles, O’Donnells. Grave stones in the Church Cemetery remember these people as beloved wife, children called to heaven, and devoted husband. Some of the stones, too old to stand, lay flat on a concrete slab in a mosaic of sayings like this:"Sleep on sweet babe and take thy rest. God called thee home. He thought it best." Some of the markers pre-date the Church, going back to 1876. Newer markers remember the passing of parishioners from a more current time. All set in the shadow of a big white cross. The doors to St. James Church were locked. I stood stretching on the tips of my toes to peek through a window at the entrance. Inside were a traditional altar, crucifix, saintly statues, and rows of pews. A sign outside indicated that priests only offer an 11 AM Sunday Mass here from June to September to serve the diminishing Roman Catholic population. A much different religious population seemed evident now. They were the Mennonites with their horses, buggies, and traditional dress.I waited until dark to hang our coach’s privacy curtains across the front windows. I watched from a distance the coming and goings of the buggies along the wide gravel bream of Route 86. We had only one visitor that evening. Cleason stopped by to be sure we found his recommended destination. He’d never been inside a Prevost. And, from one of the seats, he watched the movement of buggies saying, "There goes my Dad’s bother….Oh, that was my Cousin…Those folks with the steel wheels are part of the David Martin sect…" He paused to take a call on his cell phone from his brother. When he ended the call he laughed, "You couldn’t understand a word I said." Nope, he’d been speaking in his native German dialect. We laughed too. Cleason may have a truck and dress in t-shirt and jeans, but he’s still connected to the old way, a way he knew two travelers would enjoy if only from the view of a coach window in the parking lot of a historic church in rural Macton, Ontario. Close
Written by weeblewobble46 on 18 Jul, 2008
This little show is a fun, informative dinner theater experience. The dinner consists of family stylle servings of chicken, ribs, fish and veggies. Seating is at long tables that hold about 8 people. Beverages are not included in the price of your…Read More
This little show is a fun, informative dinner theater experience. The dinner consists of family stylle servings of chicken, ribs, fish and veggies. Seating is at long tables that hold about 8 people. Beverages are not included in the price of your ticket. Alcoholic beverages are available - local beers are a favorite - but you also have to pay for iced tea and colas.The show's characters are also your servers (there are others that are not on the stage who will keep your glass full and clear the table when necessary) and they ask for audience participation. Our show had most of the girls getting louder cheers during the performance than the boys did. I'm sure that the plea that our female server gave (it seems that there is a running "bet" as to who will generate the most cheers and the losers have to do the laundry of the others) won the hearts of our table since there were only two men there.Trivial Pursuit is the vehicle for the bits and pieces woven together for the show. The information given to you during the performance explains the pride of the locals in the accomplishments of their fellow countrymen and women. My favorite part of the show was when they sang songs composed and performed by Canadians. So many of my personal favorites are on that list. The only "problem" that I could see is that the theater is in an area studded with "gentlemen's clubs". It is the oldest tourist area and it does not wear age well. The theater is in a newer building and has adequate free parking on premises. Be sure to arrive on time since they will not start serving until the audience is seated. We had to wait over 15 minutes for a tour bus to arrive. We were hungry and the wait seemed a lot longer while we waited for those late arrivals to be seated.Enjoy the show and the dinner. It is a wonderful diversion for families who are often tired of the "tourist rat race". Close
Written by ChrissyGal on 19 Jun, 2006
I went one weekend and spring break to stay with my college roommate in her home in Kingston, ON with another college friend, and the nightlife is a lot of fun there! You would think that the city of Kingston wouldn't have too much, but…Read More
I went one weekend and spring break to stay with my college roommate in her home in Kingston, ON with another college friend, and the nightlife is a lot of fun there! You would think that the city of Kingston wouldn't have too much, but it does! My favorite two places are The Ale House and Philthy McNasty's. The Ale House was nice because there was a huge bar, but it gets crowded quick so go around 8:30 or 9pm, the dance floor (what little there is) is small, but I still got up and danced and had a blast. Philthy McNasty's has three floors, two with bars. The first floor has a great bar with r&b and hip hop music (whatever is current at the time) the basement has a really neat dark techno dance room and the second floor has another bar, but it's a lot smaller in the room. I met some really interesting people from the Royal Military Academy there, and I will definitely go back this summer. Close
Written by MichaelJM on 01 Oct, 2004
On our way to Quebec City we stopped off at Trois-Rivieres. Our main memory of this town is The Monastere des Ursulines. Keep an eye out for the signs and pause to examine these impressive buildings. There are several little old houses en route to…Read More
On our way to Quebec City we stopped off at Trois-Rivieres. Our main memory of this town is The Monastere des Ursulines. Keep an eye out for the signs and pause to examine these impressive buildings. There are several little old houses en route to the public park and the Monastery - these too are worth a look. Having passed the Monastery, we veered off and walked along the riverside. Well worth the effort.
Then it’s back on the road to Quebec. Quebec City, overlooking the St Lawrence River, was the furthest east of our journey. This city is an absolute must to visit, and we loved every step of our stay. This almost entirely French-speaking city feels truly cosmopolitan, whilst retaining its very strong French identity.
I’ll start where we started - a visit to Parc de la Chute and the Montmorency Falls. This lies to the East of Quebec City and boasts falls higher than that at Niagara, but there is a substantial less flow of water. We loved these falls and the trails around them are both interesting and enticing. Views pop out of nowhere and everywhere you are treated to the sounds and a fresh view of the falls. Cross over on the bridge and you can virtually touch the water. Look down and the odd matchstick (tree trunk) or two is evident. Continue the trail and you arrive at the scene of another battle between French and English Troops. There is the evidence of the original defenses, and tourist information details the historical importance of the site. Crossing back over the river – we didn’t fancy the long walk down to the base of the falls – you get a great view of the Manor Housecliff. The Manoir Montmorency was built in 1871 as a private residence, but used later as a hospital, a monastery, and a hotel. It’s had some well-known visitors, including the Duke of Kent, the Queen of England's father, from 1791 to 1794, and, of course, myself! Pop in and mention my name – I’m sure they’ll make you very welcome.
Quebec City needs exploring on foot. We started by climbing the steps onto the Plains of Abraham. I suspect this was somewhat easier than Wolfe had found it in 1759, although I could still imagine the surprise that General Montcalm must have felt when the British appeared. They learned from the French mistake and constructed the Citadel, an enormous star-shaped fortress, to prevent attack from the same direction. Quebec City was, however, prepared for my invasion – the citadel was closed to visitors when we arrived. I’m told that it is well worth the visit and was a bit disappointed that we were unable to get inside (I would have liked to have seen Vimy Cross if only to link with my visits to France and, in particular, Vimy Ridge – I will write about that sometime).
Not to be discouraged, we headed for town. Wow!! First impressions say I’ve landed in France. Every turn we make confirms that it is a real delight to explore the narrow streets and gaze at the architecture.
The Basilica was worth a glance, and the Chateau Frontenac … well this is a major architectural site that needs to be seen from all angles in daylight and at night. The buzz around the Chateau at night is unbelievable. There were local entertainers, locals just chilling out, and of course bucket loads of tourists with cameras and videos. You see, the view of and from the Chateau is worth crowding for. Some lazy soles use the funicular, but we walked – both ways. It’s not strenuous and you miss some terrific views if you ride.
I suggest that you don’t leave Quebec City without visiting their Parliament. Guided tours are arranged and it was an incredibly informative visit. There is no restriction on photography and the parties are small enough for individuals to pause and take in some of the grandeur of the building. We sat in the galleries of the upper house and, after the information, were allowed to wander its length.
If you walk at night, from the upper town near to the Chateau and down to Rue de petit Champlain, you will be treated to a view of the oldest and narrowest part of the town. It is littered with shops and restaurants, filled with pedestrians, and full of interesting boutiques. People loiter outside of restaurants checking out the menus. Restaurants generally offer good value for the money and staff who offer polite and welcoming service.
Walk further on, along the side of the main road, and you'll see a wide variety of original properties, which were originally bordering on the water's edge.
We "did" the history of Quebec exhibition, to be found near to the Basilica, and thoroughly enjoyed a very straightforward 3-D presentation of the history of Quebec City.
Appreciated the city, respected the people, loved the food, and treasured the memories.
We’ll be back!!