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Trip Report A lead foot, a Wonder in Montreal, and on a mission in Ottawa.

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I returned on Sunday from a road trip that took me from Boston to Montreal to Ottawa and back to Boston. I traveled from June 30 to July 5, 2009.

I normally go to the Montreal Jazz Festival around July 4th each year. Not sure why I don't stay in the US to celebrate, but that's neither here nor there. I took a view of the Jazz Festival's website and saw that Stevie Wonder was playing on June 30. Bummer. I had originally planned (and had my hotel booked) for July 3 to July 5. However, I really wanted to see Stevie. So, I started to do some research and thinking to see if I could find a way to go up on a Tuesday.

After some careful thinking, I realized that I could indeed go up on a Tuesday and stay for the remainder of the week. I also realized that besides Stevie, there really wasn't a real "draw" for me as far as other performers at the Festival. So, I started to think of other places to visit. The 2 that I came up with were Ottawa and Toronto. Since I had not been to either city, I started plotting my course to get to both during my visit to Canada.

Thankfully, some very wise people on this board answered my pitiful plea as to what I should do. Based on their recommendations as well as factoring in costs to visit both places, I decided to go to Ottawa. I was ready to start planning!

Not so fast. I had one more week of class and a final to prepare for. I had to focus even though I wanted to research for this trip. I turned in the required assignments and took the final. Now the fun could begin.

Next: A lead foot gets me to see a Wonder in Montreal!

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    Hi Kodi - yes, the final went OK (it was a take home, but tough). I thought I did better on it than I actually did, but overall, I passed the class! :)

    Between the time I turned in the final and the day I left, I didn't have a lot of time to do as much research as I wanted. I also had to get stuff done at work. I was able to cancel my hotel reservation for July 3 to 5 in Montreal without any penalties. I found another place just for the 1 night (June 30) in Montreal and found a place in Ottawa for 4 nights. My first encounter with an Ottawan was on the phone. I had called to book a room at Arosa Suites Hotel (a recommendation from a Fodorite), but they were booked. She was very nice and offered suggestions of other places nearby. I booked at the Cartier Place Suite Hotel on Cooper Street. I felt a lot better now that I had a place to stay in both cities.

    Tuesday, June 30 rolls around. I have packed and loaded my car. I drove to work since I was going to leave straight from there. It's amazing at how much stuff occurs when you're wanting to leave early! Egads. I was able to get the things done that I needed to do and left at 1:00 p.m.

    I used viamichelin.com for all my directions. It's funny to read - in midst of determining what exit to take - "You've been driving for almost 2 hours! Take a break!" Awww.

    So, I've been known to drive fast. Oh well. However, I didn't realize at how fast I drove until this trip. Apparently I had been keeping my "lead" foot locked away for too long! As I stated earlier, I left the office at 1:00 p.m. The weather held up and it got nicer as I left the Boston area (it had been cloudy and rainy for quite some time).

    I made note of the time I was at the border in Vermont - it was 5:27 p.m. The directions had me entering Canada in 4h 32 minutes. You're probably thinking - "she made it with 5 minutes to spare." However, I stopped for gas twice along the way. At the first gas station, I did not want to pay the high price of $2.87/gallon (I think) so I only put $10 worth of gas in the car. This got me to 1/2 tank. I found another gas station that had gas for $2.63 (this is what I was used to in the Boston area).

    The border guard was nice and the lines were not long at all. I crossed into Canada and was now on my way to Montreal. I had to control my lead foot once I crossed into Canada because I did not want to get a ticket. Even so, I still made good time until I came upon the Pont Champlain. Traffic was horrible! Not only was I in "rush hour" traffic, they were doing construction. Not fun.

    So, any time that I may have saved by being a bit fast on the roads, I promptly lost due to sitting in traffic. I got turned around a bit in finding my hotel, but since I was familiar with Montreal, it didn't take me long to get back on track. I stayed at the Holiday Inn Midtown on Rue Sherbrooke Ouest. A nice hotel.

    I checked in and dumped my bags in the room. I had thought about changing shirts before heading out, but decided against it. I'm glad I did not go forward with those plans. The rain had held off, but the sky was darkening. I made my way down to the area where Stevie would be playing. As I got closer to the venue, I gasped. A good 1 1/2 hours before the concert was due to start and there were tons of people already there. So much for me grabbing something to eat or a souvenir T-shirt!

    I made my way into the crowd and tried to get as close to the stage as I could, but no such luck. It was jammed packed. So, I found a place and just stood there along with about 250,000 other people. Then the skies opened and the rain fell! Up went all of the umbrellas. It got rather hot under all of the umbrellas ... well, when you're squashed amongst thousands of people . . you get the picture.

    As the concert time drew near (it was slated to start at 9:30 p.m.), more and more people came and I saw a lot of people leaving the area! Hmmm. Oh - I'm a rather petite person (not quite 5') so any chance of actually seeing Stevie on the stage was a no-go for me. My only hope was to see him on the big screens they had posted in the area. Throughout the concert, I was moving my head around others to see the screens. Too funny.

    I did move to a different spot from my original place. I stayed in this area for the rest of the concert. The concert was delayed for almost 20 minutes, but finally, Stevie came on stage! He spoke about Michael Jackson and the things associated with his death and then he started to play.

    Wow. All I can say is Wow. He was amazing. I've never seen him in concert before. He did such a good job. Of course, he paid tribute to Michael. I didn't recognize some of the songs, but I didn't care. The rain stopped and stayed away until the very end! Yay! People were dancing and singing along. It was such fun.

    He ended the concert by playing a collection of Michael's songs. He stayed on stage and was singing and clapping along with everyone else. So cool. By this time, the rain had started to fall more steadily and the concert turned into a street party.

    As I was making my way back to Rue Sherbrooke, the fireworks went off. The Jazz Festival had officially started. I think I got back around 12:30 a.m. and went to sleep around 1:00 a.m. I still needed to get a souvenir T shirt! Thankfully, I could sleep late the next day. Or so I thought.

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    Hey, TravelRibbon, please tell us more! My family's from Montreal, and a cousin may be joining me in Boston for my next check-up at Dana-Farber. It's a lovely city, isn't it? But please, tell us about the lead foot. Curiosity has the better of me now.

    Best,
    BC

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    TR, great trip report so far! I was the one who recommended Arosa in Ottawa. I'm sorry you couldn't get in there.

    SO sorry you got rained on at the concert, but it sounds like you are a die-hard fan and it didn't stop you.

    Can't wait to read more.

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    Thanks for the encouraging words. I'm sorry that it's taking me so long to get this report done! Work and the beginning of summer session has kept me hopping a bit.

    Montreal to Ottawa (July 1)
    It's Canada Day. I woke up at 5:00 a.m. or so and was not happy! I had pulled the curtains almost closed but left a small part uncovered. Oops. That's where the sunlight entered my room and pulled me out of my lovely but short sleep! Oh well.

    Yesterday, I did not eat anything except half of a snack size bag of animal crackers. I guess I wanted to get to Montreal that even when I stopped for gas, I didn't get any food and after the concert, it was too late for me to eat anything. So, I was super hungry when I woke up. I got ready and walked back towards the Jazz Festival area. I have to say that the workers did a quick and super job in cleaning up the area where the concert was held the night before.

    I went to the Starbucks on St. Catherine's street and got an iced coffee and bagel. It was yummy. There were some tourists out and about but not many. I wanted to purchase a T shirt since this was the 30th anniversary of the festival. I went to a boutique kiosk and was told that they didn't open until 12 noon. Yikes! Even though my room in Ottawa wasn't going to be ready until mid afternoon, I had to check out of my room in Montreal by noon, I think.

    After the small set back, I walked up St. Cat's towards familiar territory. Again, hardly anything was open - mainly due to the early hour and the fact that it was Canada Day. It was good to be back in familiar surroundings.

    After walking back down St. Cat's I decided to head back to the room to either nap or watch TV. I think I did a little of both. As I was waking up, a housekeeping staff member was about to enter my room to clean it up. It was close to noon so I went down to check out and store my bags in the car.

    I went back down to festival and sat on the steps until 12 noon. People were starting to gather since there was a free concert starting at noon. It was fun to do some people watching. I made to the kiosk and purchased the 30th anniversary T shirt and a postcard. I was now ready to leave Montreal and head west to Ottawa.

    I had not driven to Ottawa before so I was a bit nervous. Mainly because I didn't know what to expect on the drive. I got my car and made it to Hwy 720 (after missing the exit). Once I got out of Montreal proper, I was feeling better.

    The drive to Ottawa

    There were times when I felt like I was in Vermont. Translation: nothing but fields and open spaces on Hwy 40 and Hwy 417. There was a part of the drive where there were no exits! Hmm. It was, though, quite pretty. The sky was still blue with puffy clouds and it sprinkled on me just very briefly. Not a bad drive.

    I had to fuel up and decided to grab something to eat. Ate at Burger King. I know, not the best, but it was quick and I didn't want a repeat of the day before.

    I arrived in Ottawa and promptly got lost! The directions I printed did not take into account street closings due to construction work. Hmmm. Also, some streets were blocked off due to Canada Day Celebrations. I eventually found Cooper Street, but could not find the number. I pulled over and called them. I found out that I was very close, but would need to turn around (Cooper is a one way street - at least the part I was on).

    I called the hotel and spoke to someone who calmed me down and stayed on the phone with me as I drove around the block. She was super nice. I pulled in front, checked in, and parked the car in the garage. It was nice to be out of a car and free to walk about.

    About Cartier Place Suite Hotel

    As stated before, I found this place based on a call to the Arosa Suites (recommended by kodi). It had decent reviews on TripAdvisor.

    My first impression was that the hotel was clean. It has a small front desk (literally the desk), but a fair size lobby. There is a restaurant attached to it on the ground floor. The 2 elevators worked the entire time I was there. They had more amenities - swimming pool, work out room, etc., but I didn't use them. There were a lot of families there.

    I tried to take a nap, but was unsuccessful. Across the street there were apartments and a party was happening on the balcony to celebrate Canada Day. Well, I decided to get out and see what was going on.

    The cool thing about this hotel is that it's only 5 blocks from Parliament Hill. I walked up Elgin and joined in with those making their way to the Hill. I encountered so many people wearing red. This is good since it's one of my favorite colors and I happened to be wearing it! It was really cool to see the stage in front of Parliament. However, I had no clue as to what other buildings I was snapping pictures of, though.

    The crowd was lively and the air festive. I didn't actually go within the gates onto the grass of Parliament. After my sardine-like situation at the concert the night before, I was not "feeling" the crowd. I was hungry and actually got a veggie dog from a vendor. Side note: I do not eat hot dogs. I didn't want an Italian sausage and definitely not a regular hot dog. I got the veggie dog and smothered it with relish and Dijon mustard. Those helped a lot.

    I stayed for some of the evening concerts, but fatigue started to win. I know, I know. A real slacker for not staying to watch the fireworks or even see Sarah MacLachlan perform. However, I did see the fireworks and the various concerts on TV. And, I saw the fireworks outside my window - just the ones that went way up in the sky. I was on a lower level of the hotel so I couldn't see the ones that were lower in the sky.

    About my lead foot - I don't think it was "awake" when I drove from Montreal to Ottawa. I think I did get there in less than 2 1/2 hours, though. What can I say? I like to drive fast (within reason)!

    Next - my 3 fulls days in Ottawa (I'll condense to make them into 1 posting).

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    TR, keep it coming. I'm anxious to hear about your 3 days.

    I've never been to Ottawa on Canada Day, but I know it's very festive. I'm glad you were wearing red!

    Sorry you got lost. That is always stressful in a new city.

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