We left this narrative with our visit to Phi, Montreal’s amazing virtual reality experience, and we’ll pick up the story from there.
When we’d had all the virtual reality we could handle, we meandered the streets of Old Town Montréal, and Mike took some great shots of the sights we saw...
...the spiral staircase in a First Nation art gallery, a colorful horse and buggy, and a street performer who looked like a palace guard, until he opened his coat to reveal a flesh colored unitard. We were flashed.
During our stay at the Montreal Yacht Club, we enjoyed two spectacular fireworks shows, one put on by Sweden and the other by the good old USA. We have to admit that Sweden’s was better. The shows were even better because they were set to music that boaters could hear on their radios – and some of the boats in the marina had awesome sound systems.
It’s difficult to describe Montréal. It’s about walking beautiful streets and listening to its sounds. It’s about walking up on street musicians. Montréal is about great restaurants and wonderful food, especially restaurants with outside tables, where Midas could wait just on the other side of a fence. We loved the Jacques Cartier Market, with shops, places to eat, street performers, and a friendly person who took our picture.
So many of the people we met – on the street, at the marina, in restaurants – recommended visiting Quebec City that we decided to rent a car and drive east. https://www.tripsavvy.com/canadian-french-in-quebec-2392420 (We would have had a favorable current in Midas Touch from Montreal to Quebec City, but it’s a long, slow push against the current to get back.) The great staff at the marina agreed to take Midas for a mid-day “get busy” walk, even texting us to let us know he’d had his walk and was back on the boat.
Thanks to Uber, Wednesday morning we were at the car rental office when it opened. Navigating out of the city, where streets we closed due to construction in preparation for Canada’s upcoming 150th birthday in 2017, was a challenge, but we managed.
Our first stop in Quebec City, after finding a place to park, was the Visitor Center, where we wisely decided on a guided walking tour, led by a fantastic guide who imparted her knowledge of the city with zest.
|Jeannette - our terrific|
The newer part of Quebec City sits on a bluff high above the St. Lawrence Seaway, while the older part is just above the water. It’s like visiting an old town in France – narrow cobblestone streets, lots of small shops and restaurants, and an old building with a colorful mural on its side, depicting the history of the town.
Jeannette, our tour guide, was a walking encyclopedia of Quebec City history, and she had a great sense of humor. Like most residents of Ontario, she is bilingual – fluent in both French and English and able to switch from one to the other with ease. She ended the tour by telling us “Go have fun and get in trouble.”
Part of the charm of the old buildings is the distinctive style and character of each one. Just imagine a cushioned window seat in the bay windows that extend from this building, where you could curl up with a good book while watching the world go by.
Quebec City has many beautiful churches, and Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral is just one of them. According to our tour guide, when the faithful pray at the altar accessed from outside through a door with a carving of Christ, all sins are forgiven and washed away. With the Presidential campaign in full swing in July 2016, Marian left a prayer card asking for the safety of our country. Learn more at this link: http://holydoorquebec.ca/en/cathedral
Right, the plaza outside the Basilica-Cathedral.
After our walking tour, which included a ride in a funicular to the street above, we found a place for lunch in the Old Town . Mike had poutine, the signature dish of Ontario. Wondering exactly what poutine is and why anyone would eat it? Basically, it’s French fries covered in gravy and cheese curds – tasty and filling.
Below is another view of the magnificent hotel, taken from the broad pedestrian walkway that overlooks the St. Lawrence.
Our guide also recommended a particularly good local liqueur, which we located in a very nice restaurant bar on the way back to the car. One day was not enough to see all of Quebec City; we’ll be back, and maybe we’ll splurge on a stay at Chateau Frontenac.
Navigating the narrow streets of Old Town Montreal in a semi can’t be fun for a truck driver, especially when there’s construction going on. It took about 10 minutes for this truck to make the turn.
Thursday was our final day in Montreal – more random wandering and a chance reunion with a Gold Looper couple we had met in Marathon during Loop I. We joined them for a provisioning trip to an excellent downtown IGA grocery store hidden inside an office building. We wished we’d had more refrigerator, freezer, and cabinet space, but we could buy only a small supply of tempting items. (Unlike supermarkets in the states, Canadian grocery stores sell groceries. You won’t find shampoo, bath soap, or other toiletries. Look for a pharmacy, similar to a CVS or Walgreens, to find those necessities.)
Wayne and Vicki’s daughter, son-in-law, and grandson arrived on Thursday, bringing a Verizon Jetpack to replace the one we had that does not work outside the U.S. Verizon can’t ship “overseas,” but Leslie graciously agreed to have it delivered to her home and bring it to us. And that in itself is another story too long and involved for this blog. Lesson learned: if you plan to travel outside the U.S. and take a hotspot so you’ll have Wifi, be sure to get the right hotspot and activate it before you leave.
Friday, thanks to more help from Wayne and Vicki, we were prepared for the first of two locks we’d have to transit on the St. Lawrence. These locks were built to accommodate ocean-going freighters, and like the locks on the inland rivers of the U.S., commercial vessels have priority. We hadn’t realized that these commercials locks charge about $25 and had not obtained our tickets in advance. Fortunately, Cocomo was equipped with a printer, and Wayne graciously helped us purchase and print the “tickets” we’d need for the very large St. Lambert and St. Catherine locks while we waited almost two hours for a large freighter to go through the St. Lambert lock. (The locks have a dock where waiting boats can tie up, much better than having to hover before the lock.) We were tied up on the St. Anne-de-Bellevue wall before 6:00, giving us plenty of time to explore the town and have a yummy dinner at Klondike. The town, with shops and restaurants, is on the other side of the restaurants that are adjacent to the wall. After dinner, we strolled along the walkway to a bridge and a look at the St. Catherine lock.
For no reason that we can remember, we didn't take pictures of the town or waterfront, but Mike found these three on line. Above, the free wall where we tied up; fortunately we didn't have to raft to another boat. Right, a view on the main street. Below, another view of the waterfront.
Saturday morning, we found a great breakfast restaurant, checked out the farmers’ market – more goodies than we could store on the boat, and found a barbershop where Mike got a haircut. We were off the dock at 10:25, ready to enter the lock, but it took until 11:15 to get through because of some kind of transaction problem with another boat. Apparently they didn’t know they would have to pay. Once we were through the lock, we headed for the Hawkesbury Wall, where we would meet our Canadian friends Francis & Hélène. The Ottawa River widens at this point, and we dodged Waverunners zooming back and forth, cutting closer to the boat than we liked, but no close calls. The Waverunners of course wanted to jump the Midas Touch’s wake. After a while we found ourselves approaching a narrow point in the river, and just about then, Francis called to warn us about an approaching squall line. We could see it heading our way...
Mike told Marian that there was no time or place to bring the boat into to tie down. A trawler is a slow boat, so we couldn’t outrun the storm. We’d be better off to turn around and head back into the open water, hold our position, and put her nose into the storm. Mike got back out into the wide water just as the storm hit us. Now we were in total whiteout conditions. With our Bimini top and side curtains closed, the Midas Touch has a lot of windage, and we’re talking very high winds—50 or 60 mph. The storm kept turning us away from the wind—not a good idea, and all Mike could do was turn her back into the wind. With whiteout conditions--high winds, lightning, and rain so heavy that we could see only a short distance ahead—there is no land reference to aim for, so we were totally dependent on our radar and Garmin chartplotter to determine where the shallow water and land are. The storm felt like it would last forever, but in reality it was over in a few minutes. Midas appreciated his anxiety bandana during this short interval, and we were relieved and exhausted when it was over and could continue toward Hawkesbury.
We had no trouble finding the free wall, where Francis and Hélène were waiting. They helped us tie up, and Wayne & Vicki soon joined us. Our Canadian friends had brought dinner – fresh salmon – and we enjoyed a convivial evening with them, including plenty of wine.
There was also plenty of room for Midas to run, and he made friends with a Doberman the next morning. (He had been friends with Chloe, a Doberman in our therapy dog group, and he seemed to think every Doberman he met might be his friend.) For the first time in several years, Midas decided it was time to play run and chase, and we enjoyed watching him have a good time. After breakfast, we untied the boats and followed Miss Jazz to Francis and Hélène’s home on Baie de la Pentecôte, a short tributary of the Ottawa River. We spent five days there, and our stay will begin the next chapter.