Camping in the Snowies

Camping in the Snowies

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Road Scholar Trip: Montreal, Quebec Canada

My friend, Jan Butler, told me about this amazing company. She and her husband had been to Bruges, Belgium as travelers with Road Scholar (formerly known as Elderhostel) and was very pleased with their experience. Dave and I decided to look into the offerings of this company and found their website loaded with options. We subscribed and catalog after catalog of tempting trips called to us. I had never experienced a train trip so we opted for the excursion called "All Aboard the Ocean," a trip from Montreal to Halifax. It featured a short train ride from Montreal to Quebec City and an overnight ride (sleeper car) to Moncton, New Brunswick. 

We left Phoenix Sky Harbor at 6 in the morning and passed through JFK airport and on to Trudeau in Montreal, arriving after 7 PM. It seemed like chaos at Customs as several planes landed at about the same time and all passengers had to show passports and declaratory paperwork to a kiosk screening device and then a customs agent.

 We survived that, retrieved luggage and merged into more chaos at the taxi line. We had a coupon (voucher) for the ride to our hotel which I showed to the cabbie. "Coupon! What is coupon?" he asked in French accented English. I said it was a travel voucher and he reluctantly accepted it. He drove fast and not very patiently, gesturing at another cabbie who cut in front of him. 
I had been listening to a Louise Penney audiobook with Inspector Gamache as main character. It was set in Montreal and had to do with a conspiracy having to do with Montreal's infrastructure. I took some photos from the cab where cracks in bridges could be plainly seen. Yikes!

The main highway to downtown was limited to one lane in places with no evidence of construction activity. It was after quitting time and Sunday as well, so we weren't concerned, but I did wonder. 
We were tired travelers as we checked into the Hyatt Regency. The lobby was oddly located on the sixth floor. Looking out our hotel window we could see many beautiful skyscrapers and construction cranes. Dinner in the hotel was accompanied by a large glass of wine. 

The Hyatt is located in an area of performing arts with a vibrant street scene in the adjacent street. 

The hotel is joined to the Place Desjardins, the Underground City of shopping and restaurants. The subway can be accessed from this underground venue which is very popular, especially in wintertime. 
This photo was taken through glass and shows a neat "sculpture" of umbrellas positioned in a spiral above a fountain. 
The Hyatt is to the right in this picture. The window I took the above photo through is three stories up. 
Tired out, Dave and I head to bed. Tomorrow is the first day of our Road Scholar experience. 

Montreal, Monday, August 1st
Our day began with Starbucks coffee across the street from the Hyatt and a walk, enjoying the cooler air of Montreal which happened to be in the midst of a heat wave. A food tour of Old Montreal was scheduled for late morning. We enjoyed the sculpture along the street near the Hyatt as we walked to the tour venue. 

The tour was billed as The Old Montreal Food Tasting and Cultural Walking Tour. We met our fellow foodies at Brit and Chips on McGill street 

Two large pieces of breaded and fried white fish with fries and tarter sauce seemed sufficient for lunch but we were to walk a bit and there were six more food venues coming up. 

Our guide is explaining that Montreal used to be a walled city. A wall once stood where these metal structures now stand. Walking and eating and enjoying the day with two gals from Denver, a couple from British Colombia, three girlfriends from Ontario, we noshed on Portugese soup at Cantinho De Lisboa, a "healthy"BLT at Crew Labs Collective and Cafe in a historic bank, carrot cake at Cookie Stefanie, ice cream at a high end convenience store called Le Petit Dep, artisanal beer at Sours Grises, and soup and pudding near the wharf called Soupe Soup. We were stuffed!
Montreal has interesting street art.

Montreal will be celebrating 375 years since its founding in 2017. Efforts are being made to get the city ready but I see construction sites with no activity on any of the three days we are in the city. 

The RS meeting began with information packet pick-up and dinner, then a general meet and greet. We were given a general overview of the tour by group leader, Doug Arrand. Listening devices with earpieces were distributed and we got to meet the rest of the 36 folks we would be touring with. Dave and I were in the general age group of most of the others. Only a few were not retired. A few were fairly elderly and only a few of us had never been on a Road Scholar trip. Each got to introduce ourselves with a few words that might interest others. Six of us were from Surprise AZ, the other four from Sun City Grand. The host couple were Canadian and the rest of us from the USA. 

Montreal, Tuesday, August 2nd. 
Breakfast at the hotel was a bit chaotic with two large groups of tourists attempting to fill plates at the same time. This morning an introduction to French Canada lecture and a walking tour of Old Montreal began our Road Scholar experience. The lecturer was prepared and interesting. He could have gone on much longer but walking tour guides were waiting. 
We put on our Quiet Vox pendants, affixed the ear pieces, divided into two groups and away we went. 

Here is Dave in front of the hotel complex as the tour began. 
Ably guided by a well informed lady of Germanic extraction, our destination was Place d'Armes, Notre Dame Basilica and Place Jacques Cartier. 

Place d'Armes is a square surrounded by imposing stone structures made of native grey limestone. These buildings housed banks, trusts and insurance companies. The statue in the square is of Maisonnueve, a founder of Montreal. He is situated to look on the Basilica. 
Other statues are prominent on one side of the square but on opposite corners. The statues are of a woman with a prominent nose turned up and looking away from the statue of a man also with prominent nose turned up and away from her. They are comical but tell a tale of the feelings between the French and the English in Montreal. 

The french woman snubbing the English banks holding a poodle who is eyeing the bulldog in the arms of the man. 

The English man on the opposite corner snubbing the French Basilica. His bulldog eyeing the poodle. 

The artist's explanation of his work. 

The odd building on the square was made of red Scottish stone. Much more expensive to import. 

The Notre Dame Basilica. Plain on the outside without carvings of the saints, etc., which dominate other church facades. But splendidly Gothic inside. 

Very few of the oldest buildings survive. Those that do are made of rough stone. 

    An older building made of rough stone. 

Next to the Basilica is a garden that is on the site of a hospital built by nuns and warehouses that belonged to this order of nuns that are now pricey condominiums. 
On through the old section of Montreal with cobblestone streets, restaurants and shops. We are headed for Place Jaques Cartier and lunch at resturant Modavie. 

Another humorous sculpture named The Gossips. 
A street of restaurants and shops. 

Place Jacques Cartier with a statue of Admiral Lord Nelson which is shrouded now as it is being refurbished for the 375th anniversary. 
The entire group met for lunch. We sat at rustic tables and had a choice of a chicken or fish or vegetarian dish. Soup was a creamy vegetable with sliced baguettes accompanying. Water was served. Tea, coffee and a dessert are last. We could purchase wine or other beverages on our own. 
We walked to the Pointe-a-Calliere Museum for an afternoon field trip. 
This is an archeology and history museum that spans Montreal's history from the 17th century to the present. It is located on the Old Port between the St. Laurence River and the St. Pierre River which has been covered over. Various buildings have been located on this site as well as a cemetery so a dig during renovations to stabilize the foundation has uncovered some amazing things. 
Back to the hotel and a bit of rest. This evening we dine at Essence, a few blocks away. 

A cool beverage while waiting for the rest of the group to arrive. Another delicious meal served efficiently with entree choices, soup, bread and dessert. Oh my, I ate it all!
Back to the hotel and packing up. Our bags have to be outside our doors at 7 in the morning so the porters can't get them to the station on time. 

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