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Trip Report Trip Report from Montreal and Quebec City

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On September 24, my husband and I drove from New York to Montreal for a ten day trip to Montreal and Quebec City. In Montreal, we stayed at the Westin Montreal which was in a great location. It was walking distance to Old Montreal and right across the street from a Metro station which took us everywhere else. The hotel had excellent concierge service which was very helpful. They upgraded us to a very large beautiful room with sitting area because I had signed up as a Starwood member and because we were celebrating our anniversary while in Canada.

We arrived late in the day, settled in and then walked to our dinner at Modavie on rue St-Paul passing Notre Dame and walking along the pedestrian-only section of rue St-Paul. We sat upstairs at the restaurant (there was live music downstairs and the tables in the downstairs area are much closer together) which was not that busy at 6:30 when we arrived but completely filled up by the time we left at 8pm. The food was very good and the price was reasonable. After dinner, we walked along rue St-Paul about two blocks to the Canadian Maple Delights store for delicious gelato made with maple syrup. We then walked up Place Jacques-Cartier and saw the Hotel du Ville lit up and then headed back to the hotel.

The next day we took the Metro from the Place d’Armes station right across the street from the hotel to Mont-Royal and headed to St. Viateur Bagels at 1127 ave du Mont-Royal Est which was the sit-down restaurant. We ordered a bagel with smoked salmon and one with egg and each were served with a fruit salad and were very good. We had negative memories of the bagels from our last trip to Montreal 25 years ago but these were delicious. After breakfast, we walked about 2 blocks on Mont-Royal to pick up bus #11 and the only indication of where the bus stop was was a sign on the wall of a building. This bus, which goes to the top of Mont Royal, got crowded and we all got out at the top by the cemeteries. It took us a few wrong turns to figure out that we needed to cross the road where the bus lets you out and head into the park. Once we did that, we followed the signs to the Chalet. We took in the view at the Belvedere Kondiaronk which overlooked downtown and then went inside the building to look at the paintings of the region’s history and at the carved squirrels in the rafters. There are restrooms in the building. Standing on the terrace, facing the building, there was a path on the right which went to the Croix du Mont Royal which was not very impressive during the day. We went further along the road and took a small path off to the right to the Belvedere Camillien-Houde which looked east over Olympic Park. We needed to retrace our steps up the path and headed to Maison Smith and then walked through a field of sculptures to the overlook of Lac des Castors (Beaver Lake) which, since it was a man-made lake, was not particularly special. We then followed a path which led to the staircase down to the entrance to Mont Royal at rue Peel. Walking up that staircase into the Mont Royal park would have been very strenuous and we were glad we had taken the bus up and walked down. We walked down rue Peel to Sherbrooke and turned right heading to the Musee des beaux Arts to see the Chihully exhibit. The entrance to the Musee was in the Desmarais building from which you can connect to the other buildings. The Chihully exhibit was excellent and we saw many pieces which we had never seen before. We then went through the Bourgie building especially to see the small Inuit exhibit on the fourth floor. The room with the Tiffany windows was not open to the public which was a disappointment. We went through the rest of the museum which did not have as large a collection as I expected. When we left the museum, it was getting chilly and very windy. We walked along Sherbrooke and passed McGill University and continued to rue St-Denis which was a farther walk than we thought it would be. We turned left to ave du Pins and left on that to a restaurant recommended by Chantal, the wonderful concierge at our hotel. The restaurant was Laloux. For quite some time, we were the only people there. Service was excellent, the surroundings were lovely, the menu very interesting and the food was delicious. Our desserts were chocolate mousse formed into chocolate covered ice cream pops and they were particularly wonderful. For our anniversary (I guess Chantal had told them) they brought us some wonderful macarons and a candle. After dinner, we walked back to the Sherbrooke Metro which we took back to the hotel. We were surprised at the number of beggars in Montreal and that they come up to you to ask for money. It was a bit disconcerting.

We continued to have lovely weather although it was chillier on Thursday. We walked a few blocks to Olive et Gourmando on rue St-Paul and joined the line for 2 minutes until they opened at 8am. We sat at a table and they gave us a piece of paper and a menu. You decide what you want to order and then take the paper to the counter and they write down what you want and bring the food to the table. The pastries were delicious and very flaky and buttery and we shared four of them and had cappuccinos which they served in a glass. We went back to the hotel to get our car and followed Chantal’s directions out to the Laurentian area. The skies were overcast as we headed north. St. Sauveur was our first stop and we parked by the church and walked along the main street looking at the boutiques all of which were decorated for fall. There were restrooms right by the parking near the church. Morin Heights didn’t seem worth a stop and we drove on to Val David. We parked on the main street across from the Tourist Information and walked along the bicycle path which turned into the Parc Lineaire le P’tit Train du Nord which was a lovely trail. We walked for a while and then retraced our steps. Off the path was the Parc des Amoureux with very pretty views of the river and we just sat and relaxed and enjoyed our surroundings. Back in the car, we drove up to the Mont Tremblant area and the sun came out. We couldn’t find an easy place to park and get close to the lake so we drove back to Ste-Agathe and continued down the main street to the lake and parked. We had made a reservation for a lake cruise with Croisieres Alouette at 3:30 but they had room on the 2:30 cruise and we went aboard. Both tours were filled by buses of Japanese tourists so it was a good idea that we had made reservations in advance. The cruise was 50 minutes with commentary in French and English. My husband and I spent most of our time on the small outdoor area in the back of the boat. It was a very enjoyable excursion. We then drove back to Montreal and our dinner was at Ristorante Quattro on rue Notre Dame which was a very attractive space. The portions were huge and we could easily have shared the Caesar salad which was really excellent. Our risotto and pasta main courses were also delicious and the service was very good. It was a short walk back to the hotel.

On Friday, the weather was very overcast and chilly even though all the weather sites had called for sun. We put on various layers and headed back to Olive et Gourmando which was much busier at 9am but we still got a table. We shared a bowl of granola served with delicious maple yogurt and lots of fruit and we each had a maple/pecan pastry which was a favorite from yesterday. We had ordered tickets to the Jardin Botanique before we left home based on advice that this would allow us to avoid long lines at the ticket booths. The special exhibit was the Mosai’icultures International which is done every 6 years and this was the third time (I think) it was in Montreal. We drove to the Jardin because my husband wanted to bring his tripod but he ended up leaving it in the car because of the crowds so taking the Metro might have been easier and certainly cheaper. They directed us to overflow parking at the Olympic Stadium across the road for a $15 charge. It became sunny and warm so the layers went into the day pack I carried. We followed the map for the displays and they were spectacular. I could understand why the gardens were very crowded for this special event. We left at about 4pm and took the Metro to the Berri-UQAM stop to look for somewhere to eat because I had read a lot of advice to skip the restaurants and cafes at the Jardin and in the nearby area. Most eateries didn’t open until 5pm and we needed to eat promptly and return to the gardens for the lighting of the Japanese and Chinese gardens. Looking back on it, we probably should have just stayed at the Jardin and eaten in one of their restaurants or cafes because we had very little chose from and the place we chose, Zyng was very mediocre. We did go down the street for very good gelato before taking the Metro back to the gardens. We were glad we had purchased our tickets in advance because there were lines of people buying tickets to the Gardens of Light. As dusk came on, we started at the Japanese garden. There were lots of people (impossible to use a tripod for photos) and just some areas were lit up. Once it was really dark, we went over to the Chinese Garden. We should have gotten there earlier because this was the real star of the evening and the Japanese garden was disappointing in terms of the lighting effects. By the time we got to the Chinese garden there was a 20 minute wait to get in. However, it was worth every minute. The garden was filled with amazing lanterns hand-made in China in all shapes, sizes and colors. Tthe lake in the center of the garden was filled with tableaus formed by lanterns shaped like people and animals . It was spectacular! We left at about 9pm, picked up our car and drove back to the hotel. I would think that the Metro would have been very crowded at that time with so many people leaving at once. The drive was very easy.

Saturday was a beautiful, sunny and warmer day. We walked a short way from the hotel for breakfast at an outlet of the chain, Eggspectation. The service was excellent and the breakfast really tasty. Today we followed a walking tour of Old Montreal I had developed based on various guide books and online sources. We started at Place d’Armes along with many other tourists looking at the beautiful buildings and taking photos of Notre Dame which was closed until 1:30 for a wedding so we made plans to come back later. We continued down rue Notre Dame and went into the Hotel de Ville which had a small exhibit. Then we visited the Chapelle Notre-Dame de Bon Secours and walked through the main floor of the Marche Bonsecours. We continued down rue St-Paul and walked around the Place Jacques-Cartier which was very busy. We took a leisurely walk to the Old Port and walked through a lovely river-side park to the Pointe-a-Calliere Museum. We made sure to hold on to our tickets because we needed to swipe them to get into the various exhibits throughout the buildings making up the museum. The multi-media show was a good place to start and then we walked through the archeological remains which were throughout the buildings with excellent information detailing what we were seeing and the history of Montreal. There was an interesting special exhibit about the Beatles in Montreal. We took the elevator up to the tower and went outside for wonderful views of the Old Port. We headed back to visit the Basilica of Notre Dame and paid our $5. The Basilica was very busy and we sat near an English tour to hear some of the stories the guide was telling. We were disappointed that the Chapel of the Sacred Heart behind the main altar was closed for a wedding so we couldn’t see it. The Basilica is beautiful inside and a perfect place to sit and contemplate and rest your tired feet. Since the weather was so lovely, after the Basilica, we walked back to the area by the river and walked west through the Locks Garden and then returned to our hotel. Dinner was at Bonaparte, just a few blocks from our hotel. We received a very warm welcome at this lovely restaurant. Many recommended we order the table d’hote and that was a great suggestion. Everything, from breads to dessert, was delicious, generous portions, reasonable prices combined with excellent service.

Sunday we had a lazy morning. We wanted to go to Bonaparte for breakfast but they serve it only during the week. We ate breakfast at the hotel but the service was a bit slow and the eggs weren’t as good as we had had at Eggspectation and were much more expensive. We packed up, checked out and drove towards Quebec City. The trip took about 3 hours including the time our navigation system got us lost in the suburbs of Quebec City and tried to get us to drive on a pedestrian/bike only road. Finally, with my husband’s excellent sense of direction, he got us back to the highway and the navigation system kicked in with the correct directions. We had reservations at Auberge Saint Antoine in the lower town which got top notch reviews everywhere we looked. It deserved them. The hotel was located in 3 historical buildings right near the port. We received a very warm and helpful welcome. They upgraded us to a king room because we were celebrating our anniversary on this trip. The room was very nice with a balcony looking towards the Chateau Frontenac. We went out to walk around rue St. Pierre and St.-Paul which were charming streets with shops and cafes and we also walked through the Old Port. The weather was warm and sunny and perfect. Some areas of the Lower Town were filled with tour groups and people from the large cruise ships which were docked in the river every day of our stay. Our first night’s dinner was at Café du Mond which was a relatively short walk from the hotel. Everything was very good and we especially enjoyed the apple sugar pie we shared for dessert. In fact, we enjoyed our experience at the restaurant and the wonderful and friendly service so much, we decided to go back another evening.

Monday was a gorgeous day with sunny and mild weather. We decided to wander and let my husband get photos while the light was good and before too many crowds filled the streets. After walking around the Lower Town, which was much smaller than I imagined, we walked up the staircase to the Upper Town and walked around Montmorency Park where some of the trees had beautiful fall foliage. We continued up the stairs to the Chateau Frontenac area and walked along the Terrasse Dufferin with its view over the river and, at the end, up more stairs to the Promenade des Gouveneurs. As the crowds began to gather, we walked back to the Lower Town and over to the Marche where we bought croissants and coffee for breakfast and some gifts for us and for friends. We wandered through the port area and ended up back at the hotel. We spent some time just relaxing on our balcony and, with the view, it felt like we were in Europe. Later we wandered all over Lower Town, down rue Petit-Champlain, along boulevard Champlain stopping in a few shops. We walked back to the Upper Town and wandered the lobby of the Chateau Frontenac, walked along rue St-Anne, bought a charming art work from the artist on rue du Tresor and visited Edifice Price, Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, walked along rue St-Jean to Artillery Park and walked a bit of the fortifications. We then walked along rue d’Auteuil which was a lovely street and along Parc Esplanade to rue St-Louis and then back along this street with its beautiful old buildings and back to the hotel. Quebec City is so perfect just for wandering with no particular plan. We saw a pretty street, we walked it. You can’t get lost but you can find some lovely areas you wouldn’t otherwise know existed. Our dinner was at Quai 19 on rue St-Paul which was recommended by the hotel concierge. The food was more upscale and very tasty but, since none of the desserts were appealing, we went out looking in the Lower Town for an open gelato place with no success. Other than restaurants, nothing was open.

Tuesday was another beautiful day. We walked to a café about a block from the hotel for pastries and coffee but it was only ok. We walked up to the Upper Town for more wandering. We visited Notre Dame which had beautiful gold ornamentation, walked back along rue Ste-Anne to the walls and left again along Parc d’Esplanade (I loved trying to see into the windows of the beautiful homes across the street—looks like a wonderful place to live) and then through the Port St-Louis to the Hotel du Parlement. We walked around George V Park and saw the armory which burned in 2008 and then we headed back to the Parlement for the noon Engllish tour which was free. We had an excellent tour guide who was full of information and the tour was very interesting. We got to see the Speaker when he walked by on his way to lunch and welcomed us to Quebec. After the tour, we walked up the Grande Allee through beautiful areas of the city to the Musee des Beaux Arts. The museum was between special exhibits but we really liked the Inuit art and it was interesting to see the cell block from the old prison which was incorporated into the museum. Some of the cells were amazingly tiny. We walked up to the top of the tower which hasdan interesting wooden sculpture in a small space. It was difficult to see any views out of the small windows. The museum collection is Quebec art which was interesting because we would otherwise never get to see most of these artists. I did expect, however, a more extensive collection. We shared a very good salmon sandwich at the café in the museum. The museum was located right on the large Battlefields Park which was a very enjoyable and beautiful place to wander. We slowly made our way to Joan of Arc Parc which was decorated for Halloween with various tableaus and stories. We sat in the park relaxing and reading and watching the tour buses disgorge their passengers who ran around the park taking photos and then jumped back on their bus. That reminded us why we don’t travel on tours. Dinner was at Le Billig on St-Jean which was a very small crepe restaurant. Yummy! I tried a local non-alcoholic cider for the first time and that was really good. We had two main course crepes which came with salads and two dessert crepes. Dinner was delicious and reasonable. We decided to walk back to the hotel to walk off some of the dinner. There were lots of people out and about throughout the city which made the walk very enjoyable. It actually didn’t take as long as it looked on the map.

Wednesday was overcast but mild. We walked a few blocks from our hotel to Le Petit Cochon Dingue on blvd Champlain for breakfast. They had seating outside and upstairs. The muffins and croissants were very good as was the cappuccino. We sat outside and enjoyed watching the world go by. Back at the hotel, we picked up our car and directions from the concierge and that, together with our GPS system, got us to Montmorency Falls. We parked at the bottom and took the cable car up. We went through the Manoir and then over the bridge, walked a trail into the woods a bit and enjoyed some fall foliage and then started down the staircase. We decided we definitely would not have wanted to walk up the staircase from the bottom to the top. There were viewing platforms along the way and, at the viewing platform at the bottom, you felt the mist and saw rainbows in the falls. The weather cleared and we easily found the bridge to Ile d’Orleans and took the right off the bridge. We stopped at various places for beautiful fall foliage. We circled the whole island plus drove a bit along route du Mitan through the forests and agricultural areas in the center of the island. We stopped at the Chocolaterie for an ice cream cone dipped in milk chocolate which formed a thick delicious creamy covering and, although we weren’t hungry, we ate every bit and it was worth every calorie. We climbed the observation tower in St-Francois for lovely views of the island and across the river to the mainland. We stopped at Bilodeau and purchased alcoholic and non-alcoholic ciders apple butter and apple mustards. Driving Ile d’Orleans was a wonderful day trip. For dinner this evening, we returned to café du Mond and had another excellent dinner. We both loved the seafood pie in particular and, of course, had to have one more piece of the apple sugar pie.

The next day the sun came out again. We went back to Le Petit Cochon Dingue for breakfast since it was so good. We wandered back to the Upper Town and then out on rue St-Louis and left just before the gate to the Citadel. The English tour was at noon and the tour guide was very good. What surprised us was how little security there was at this military base. We are so used to having our bags examined and being subjected to other security measures that it really was surprising that there was none of that here. We really enjoyed this tour and, afterwards, we turned left after going out the passageway and then left to the Governor’s Walk, took that to the Terrace and back down to the Lower Town. The doors to the ruins under the Terrace were locked every time we attempted to see them so we missed them. At the Place Royale in the Lower Town we visited the Eglise Notre-Dame-des-Victoires which was open only on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 10-3. When we left the church, we headed to the Museum of Civilization which is a wonderful museum. I was disappointed that their new permanent exhibit on the First Nations wasn’t open yet but we saw the People of Quebec permanent exhibit and a wonderfully enjoyable special exhibit on Paris Belle Epoch. This was our favorite museum of the entire trip and I feel was a must-see. We had asked our concierge for a dinner recommendation and we were interested in trying some ethnic food. He couldn’t recommend any of the Vietnamese restaurants in the city but he did recommend a relatively new Greek restaurant on rue St-Paul called Le Mezze. It was a pretty restaurant with good and friendly service, reasonable prices and very tasty food. We walked back to the hotel to pack.

Friday was nice weather and chilly and, after going back to the breakfast place where we had breakfast sandwiches instead of pastries (the ham, cheese and egg sandwich was particularly good), we checked out and drove back to NY. There was beautiful fall foliage all along our route home. It was a wonderful trip.

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