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Colorful Québec: Mai Tai Tom's 2019 Journey to Montréal & Québec City

Colorful Québec: Mai Tai Tom's 2019 Journey to Montréal & Québec City

Old Jan 3rd, 2020, 02:55 PM
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My new knee is actually functioning, so let’s get back to that autumn trip we took to Montréal and Québec City. For those of you who have forgotten while I went into hibernation, we started with five days in Montréal. Today, on Day #4, the four of us enjoyed the great outdoors and visited Montréal’s most famous park, Parc Mont-Royal. We took in the fabulous views of Montréal and the surrounding countryside from a chalet replete with squirrels. After learning about the park’s history, we strolled some of the 470-acre park, strolled around its only lake, visited a gorgeous cemetery and ended up at " “the world's largest and most popular shrine dedicated to the earthly father of Jesus (Joseph, who is Canada's patron saint).” Link with story and lovely photos photos below ... story without photos is under photo of L’Oratoire St-Joseph


Day Four - Finding Dr. Kimble’s Wife’sMurderer, Park With A View, A Squirrelly Building, Central Park Designer, Boat Race, Where’s The Entrance?, A New Mrs. MaiTai?, Sing Us A Song You’re The Piano Man, Saint Be Praised, Up Up and Up, You’ve Gotta Have Heart, Cab Driver Comedian, The Line That Never Moved, Wise Decision, No Drinks Without Food, Drinks With No Food & Getting Ready For Old-School

Awakening to a majestic blue-sky morning, Tracy and I took our leisurely time getting ready for the day (I’m getting soft in my old age) while Kim and Mary attempted to have breakfast at Olive et Gourmando (tuned out to be more sweets than actual breakfast). We also stopped in, but only to pick up some pastries and coffee that we ate back at the hotel.

On the way back to the hotel, Tracy exclaimed, “I think we found the one-armed man that killed Dr. Richard Kimble’s wife!” Meanwhile, I was singing “Me and My Shadow,” although I was perplexed as to where my arm had disappeared.

As we finished, Kim and Mary arrived back, and we decided it was time to head to the great outdoors (via a $14CAD Uber ride). Our destination: Parc Mont-Royal (Royal Mountain).

As it turned out, our driver was from Boston, which could only mean one thing … we had to hear about the wonderful New England Patriots. Anthony actually wasn’t too obnoxious as he talked about “God” Tom Brady, and he was helpful in giving us the lay of the land as he let us out.

We would find out that the landscape architect who designed Central Park in NYC, was also responsible for Parc Mont-Royal (opened in 1876). We would be only four people of the five million visitors who come up here each year. The first European visitor here was Jacques Cartier, who with the help of some indigenous people, climbed it in 1535 (not such a tough climb … about 750 feet).

It was a short walk through a wooded forest before we came upon a viewpoint overlooking the Montréal skyline and landscape. We checked out the gorgeous views including those of Mont-Royal’s sister mountains … St-Bruno, St-Hilaire and St-Grégorie.

Behind us stood the Chalet du Pont-Royal, designed in French Beaux-Arts style in 1930 by architect, historian and archeologist Aristide Beaugrand-Champagne. We got a kick out of Champagne’s vast interior design of the building, which includes a mural collection depicting Montréal’s colonial history.

Of course, due to my affinity for members of the family Sciuridae, I was drawn to the 32 squirrels adorning the rafters. Just like the critters on our front lawn, each of these squirrels held a nut in their claws.

Retracing our footsteps we came upon Maison Smith (which would have looked like this had we taken this picture I’ve stolen from the internet). “Constructed in 1858, it (Maison Smith) was the destination of the first road laid out on the Mountain and is Montréal’s last surviving example of rural architecture of its time.”

Maison Smith houses a permanent exhibition talking about the park’s history (and its architect), along with all the flora and fauna.

One room displays events chronicling the park’s history on the wall, including the terrifying 1535 attack of Jacques Cartier by a pack of squirrels and an off-his-rocker raccoon as he ascended the top of the mountain. We surmised Cartier survived intact by passing out nuts.

Now it was time to take a stroll through a small portion of the 470-acre park. On a crisp, spectacular day, lots of families were out enjoying the sunshine.

Montréal seemingly has public art everywhere, and it was displayed in the numerous sculptures located in the aptly named “Sculpture Park.”

According to “Montréal for 91 Days,” the “sloping field is studded with strange gray monuments. These are the remains of the International Sculpture Symposium, which in 1964 invited twelve artists from around the world. Over fifty years later, most of the works are still visible.”

We walked along the Chemin Olmsted, and in the near distance is Parc Mont-Royal’s only body of water, Lac aux Castors (Beaver Lake), “an artificial basin fitted in 1938 on a former swamp.”

An old beaver dam discovered during work on the lake is how the lake got its name. It was not named after the TV show.

While there, we witnessed a small version of the America’s Cup, as competitors vied to get their remote-controlled sailboats to maneuver the makeshift course in the fastest time.

Near the pavilion at the lake was a small garden that (not surprisingly) caught the eye of Tracy, where she and Mark Focus (aka Kim) took some flower photos. As for me, I wanted to go visit some dead people.

Not too far away are two of Montréal’s famed cemeteries, Cimetière Mont-Royal and Cimetière de Notre-Dame-des-Nieges, which was the one higher on my list. We were told by someone at Maison Smith that the gate nearest to the lake might be closed, and she was right. So we walked for quite a long time on the sidewalk adjacent to the cemetery. After turning the corner, we did find the main entrance open.

From all the walking we realized that this 343-acre cemetery is the largest cemetery in Canada. There are 34 miles of shaded pathways, but since it seemed like we had just walked 34 miles, most of the crew were happy to rest for a bit.

I trudged onward for about 15 minutes and found some nice condos for the deceased …

… and also stepped inside the Mausoleum Sainte Clare of Assisi where niche “living” is provided.

I would have loved to wander the spacious grounds, but back-tracking (uphill) was not in the cards … but lunch certainly was because we had to take a trek up another hill to our next destination.

A couple of blocks from the cemetery stood Duc de Lorraine, so we “Duc’d” in. Well, actually we sat out on the patio, since the inside was full.

Damn millennials and their phones … oh wait!

Our server told us service might be a tad slow, because they had just received a large tour group. At the time it didn’t bother us, but as the day grew blustery (aka cold) we were hoping that our food would arrive quicker. When it did, it was surprisingly good.

From the French onion soup to eggs Benedict to the mac & cheese with chicken plus the ham and cheese on a croissant, all the dishes satisfied.

We even checked out the quaint interior that contained lots of goodies.

While sitting and now kind of freezing at lunch, we heard the sound of piano music. Across the street was a tiny strip of land, and at one corner of it sat a piano being played by various people. As we would find out later, there are pianos scattered throughout Montréal allowing anyone who feels like tinkering with the kets to sit down and play it again, Sam.

Tracy accused me flirting with the server, which I think at my age is not called flirting. I denied the fact, but Tracy got photo evidence that she holds against me to this day. That said, our server from the south of France was quite intelligent.

Refreshed, it was back up a hill to a shrine that receives two million visitors a year, many of them so devout they’ll climb 99 steps to its front door on their knees. L’Oratoire St-Joseph is “the world's largest and most popular shrine dedicated to the earthly father of Jesus (Canada's patron saint).” It is the idea of Brother André Besette (1845–1937), who “began building a chapel on the mountainside across the road to honor his favorite saint.” André scattered St. Joseph medals. praying for an oratory to be built on this site.

André used to visit the sick in Montréal, supposedly healing them by rubbing oil on their wounds, and St. Joseph was his guy. Pilgrims came from all over to to be cured from sickness and injury. I gave it a shot, but still had to have a knee replacement a month later. Oh well.

Looking upward, we saw its copper dome, one of the largest on the planet.

With my bad knees, along with not being Catholic, I walked up the 99 steps (probably slower than some people ca do on their knees).

We meandered through a hallway to the Crypt Church, which was constructed in 1915. There’s a Carrera marble statue of St. Joseph behind the altar, but we did not venture up there as there was a service in process.

Adjacent to the Crypt Church is the Votive Chapel, holding more than 10,000 votive candles.

St. Joseph is honored here. Well, I guess he’s honored everywhere.

Ex-votos (lots of canes and crutches). “Grateful pilgrims” left them here during Brother André’s life.

Then it was up, up, up via escalators to the Basilica, where more canes and crutches could be seen. By now, I felt like borrowing one.

Before entering, we took a peek outside at the grand view.

Inside, we checked out the basilica that seats a modest 2,028 people,.

The tracker grand organ comes from Germany, and there are ten stained-glass windows.

We walked and explored for a bit …

… before heading back down. On a lower we stopped to view the heart of Saint Brother André. Talk about someone who stole your heart? On March 16, 1973, someone literally stole André’s heart from the Oratory. More than 600 days later, due to a tip, it was found in the basement of a house in southwest Montréal and returned.

If we scurried from here, we could still make our last appointed destination, the Pointe-à-Callière Archeology and History Museum, which had been highly recommended. Our Uber driver (Ali from Algeria) was a hoot. I think you’ll be seeing him in the Catskills any month now.

He dropped us off near the museum, and standing in front of us was another piano. After emulating Billy Joel and Elton John, Kim and I took our tips from the people … they told us to keep our day jobs (we didn’t have the heart to tell them we’re retired).

Inside the museum was a line of about 25 people deep with one person manning (well, it was a woman) the counter. We decided it should be a short wait. Twenty minutes later, the line was still about 25 people deep. Montréal, we have a problem It was 4:20, and it was time for an executive decision. “Let’s find a happy hour” was the collective decision.

We stopped by the Pub St. Pierre, only to be told they only serve drinks with food. Not hungry, and not too long before dinner, we decided to move on.

Vallier (425 McGill Street) was happy to serve us our cocktails, and afterward we walked the short distance back to our hotel for a five-minute nap before freshening up for the evening.

This was the dinner I had most looked forward to before leaving. It’s a tough place to get reservations, but through online perseverance I got them two weeks before we left. It was time to head to the Plateau …


Night Four - L’Express
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Old Jan 6th, 2020, 10:56 AM
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Maitaitom, glad you're P-T is progressing; that you're back to posting your travel experiences. (It nudges me to get going on our France TR!) Your report of Montreal, including your beautiful photos, reminds us that we're due for a repeat visit. Will stay tuned for Quebec city.
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Old Jan 6th, 2020, 01:32 PM
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So happy for you both! Glad to get back to the trip reports!
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Old Jan 9th, 2020, 12:40 PM
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I admit, I get a little compulsive sometimes (Kim and Mary might say a little more than “sometimes”) when it comes to restaurant choices while traveling. Before our trip to Montréal, I became a “tad" obsessed about getting reservations at the city's famed L’Express restaurant. So obsessed, I woke up in the middle of the night to secure reservations two weeks before we left (the first day we could do so). As it turned out, my obsession was necessary because they only had two times available for the night we wanted to dine (it’s a tough table). Was it worth it? You bet. Old school elegance complete with professional waiters, a sensational ambiance and good food made us realize why to so many people L’Express is a Montréal treasure. Come have dinner with us! Link with photos and story below.


Nights Four & Five - L’Express

L’Express, Montréal

While planning the Montréal portion of our trip, there was one restaurant I desperately wanted to try.

I am not usually one to follow food critics, but in my research I did find it interesting that noted Montréal Gazette food critic Lesley Chesterman gave L’Express four stars (out of four) in 2016, something she had very rarely done for any restaurant (the last one she had done at that time was in 2011 for Joe Beef). She once said that Montréal would be “unimaginable” without L’Express.

I’m also a sucker for historic restaurants (see Hollywood’s Musso & Frank Grill in “Tom’s Dining Out”), so L’Express intrigued me. Although L’Express has the feeling of a very old restaurant, it’s not quite as old as one thinks. Pierre Villeneuve, who started the restaurant (along with Colette Brossoit) 40 years ago in 1980, said, “At the beginning, we wanted people to think that L’Express had been there since 1950.”

Entering L’Express (which has no sign on the outside … I guess the name is written in front on the sidewalk, which we missed completely), is like stepping back in time. I almost expected to be greeted by a white-suited maître de. The creamy yellow walls of L’Express are covered with group photos of the staff taken every year. The bar runs alongside one side of the narrow space with the 66-seat dining room occupying the other side. With the black and white checkered floor and tables covered in white linens, L’Express has the feel of a Parisian bistro café.

In a recent NY Times article, it said that patrons and staff often speak “Québécois French.” A lawyer who has eaten at L’Express since its opening in 1980, said, “It’s like a French brasserie, where they speak in Canadian.”

Our waiter on this evening was Yves who has been with the restaurant for 30 years. He was wearing the traditional “uniform.” Villeneuve once said, “That is the thing that is closer to France, the uniform … But you have to be nice, not like a French waiter.” Yves was very nice (as has been our experience with most of our servers in France).

One of Montréal’s premier chefs, David McMillan, stated in the article, “I still have this feeling of elation, like it’s Christmas, when I walk into that room, particularly when it’s a snowy Montreal night.” He estimates he’s eaten at L’Express more than 500 times.

At each table, a big jar of house-made cornichons sits at each table alongside a basket of fresh bread and a small container of Dijon mustard. I am an avowed pickle hater, but reluctantly tried ONE of the cornichons and grudgingly agreed they were good!

In addition to the specials, L’Express offers comforting French classics such as confit de canard, duck foie gras, Croque-Monsieur and baba au rhum (I should have ordered one of those).

After pouring over the menu and consulting with Yves, I kicked it off with a “Wow!” appetizer of chicken liver pâté with pistachios ($15). For my main course, I ordered the steak tartare with a big bowl of crispy fries ($27.75). I’m the rare person who loves steak tartare (photo from internet.)

Tracy started with the roasted beet salad ($11.75) followed by the raviolis de Maison, beef and spinach with mushrooms, veal broth and sherry sauce ($21.75). Both of which were delicious.

Kim went with the special Velouté de Volaille et Légumes d’automeue (creamy chicken soup) and the raviolis de Maison for his main course.

Mary ordered the Huitres Trésor du large (6 oysters, $18) and the special Escalope de Veau de Lail; veal scaloppini on mashed potatoes, ($28.55). Mary declared the veal a Wow! dish. After tasting Mary’s veal, Tracy asked Yves if there was any way we could get a reservation for dinner the following evening. Yves pointed to the maître de and wished us “bonne chance.”

We passed on dessert (kicking myself over that … waistline be damned) and went to beg for dinner reservations the following evening, which was to be our last night in Montréal. There were no table reservations available, but we did manage to score 8:30 p.m. reservations at the bar (Tracy and Mary are quite persuasive), which seats 15.

The following evening, after a stupendous day starting with a morning tour of Basilique-Notre Dame and then exploring Montréal Jardin Botanique (including a fantastic evening lantern festival) and Le Stade Olympique (see next chapter), we were greeted by Yves, who remembered us from the prior evening (hopefully he had nice memories of us). Everyone seated at the bar was dining (it seems that many bars in Canada are for eating, not drinking). Our server was Matthew who was also doubling as the bartender. Matthew told us that the staff rotates positions to keep it interesting.

I started with the soup special Velouté de Volaille et Légumes d’automeue and the Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe ($19). I’ve yet to meet a Cacio e Pepe I didn’t like. Tonight was no exception.

Tracy went with the warm goat cheese salad ($14.25) followed by the special Escalope de Veau de Lail both of which she enjoyed.

Mary went old school with a Parisian bistro staple, celery remoulade ($8.50) and, in a surprise move for our fish loving friend, ordered the hanger steak with shallot butter and fries ($28.50).

Just in case Mary changed her mind, Kim ordered the grilled salmon on spinach and lentils ($26.50).

For dessert we shared profiteroles with maple syrup ice cream and crème anglaise ($10.25). Wow! The maple syrup ice cream really takes this dessert to an entirely new level. This was not the only time we were wowed by a maple dish in Canada… they love their maple.

Before leaving, Matthew brought us four of the darkest chocolate truffles I have ever seen. Kim ate one for his heart health, but we did not have room, and Mary wrapped them up for later.

L’Express is open seven days a week serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. The kitchen is open until 1:45 a.m. and the restaurant closes at 3 a.m., but reopens every day for breakfast at 8 a.m. The restaurant is only closed on Christmas Day and closes at 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

Overall, we were very impressed with L’Express from the moment we stepped inside on our first night dining there. I’m sure there are plenty of Montréal restaurants with more innovative cuisine, but if you want some old-school ambiance and elegance combined with a pretty terrific meal, you have to try L’Express. Merci!

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Old Jan 12th, 2020, 05:46 PM
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Maitaitom, great report! L'Express sounds wonderful. Your mention of Musso & Frank's brings back memories of our dining there many moons ago. Probably our first visit to LA, totally winging it. We do recall the delicious steak we enjoyed and the elegant interior. We'll stay tuned for more of Quebec, especially Quebec City! (After Monday night's Championship game!)
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Old Jan 19th, 2020, 03:09 PM
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Our final day in Montréal took us back to Basilque Notre-Dame de Montréal, so we could see the incredible interior without the crowds of the light show a few nights before. On a cold and blustery day, we’d head out to a big surprise, Jardin botanique de Montréal. The surprise was the abundant amount of colorful flowers and plants that were still in bloom. You’ll see we took a lot of photos in these gardens, but we could have included about two dozen more with all the beauty we witnessed that day. We would return in the evening for a show we had purchased before we left. In between the garden experience, the four of us traveled back to the 1976 Olympics at the Stade olympique, and took a ride on a unique “inclined elevator,” where, on the way down, a hockey match broke out. That evening, we’d be back at Jardin botanique for the Jardins de Lumière (Gardens of Light) Festival. As you’ll see, our final big event in Montréal also happened to be its most colorful. The next report will take us to Québec City, a place that at times feels like you’re in France. Entire story with photos in link below.


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Old Jan 26th, 2020, 01:48 PM
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Maitaitom, quite a light show for your Montreal finale! Your photos are outstanding!
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 02:20 PM
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We hopped on the train from Montréal to Québec City and arrived a little after noon. We spent the afternoon exploring both the Upper and Lower towns. Québec City, especially Vieux-Québec (the lower town), has a real French feel. The walk from the lower town to upper town was a bit strenuous for a guy about to have his knee replaced (wish we had found that darned funicular earlier), however by going that way we did discover a surprisingly delicious treat along the way. We, of course, checked out a couple of churches, a famed chateau hotel, found the funicular and explored Old Québec City, complete with an array of umbrellas suspended over one of the cobblestone streets. Our restaurant on the first night was excellent, and we even got to check out a couple of more sights on the way back to our charming hotel. Loved Québec City, and it only gets better. Thanks for following along (link with story and photos below). Story (sans photos) are below photo of myself with Mary enjoying "Umbrella Alley."



Day Six: On Track For A Good Day In Québec City, Hotel Excellence, The Walk Of Hell, Thank Heavens For Popcorn, I Thought We’d Already Seen Notre Dame, Are We In London?, A Mysterious Chapel, Never In Doubt … Seldom Correct, Drinks At a Grande Dame, Now We Find the Damned Funicular, Pub Crawl, Quaint & Crowded, Umbrella Policy, Looking For Ancient Drink Artifacts, Oh Deer! and How Many Languages Do You Speak?

Since we had a 9 a.m. train to Québec City, I, of course, needed to be there at least 45 minutes to an hour early. Kim, Mary and Tracy, knowing my OCD for missing trains, reluctantly joined me on our short taxi ride from the Hotel Gault, which we recommend as a place to stay in Montréal (I’m sure the jackhammers have left by now).

I had purchased Business Class tickets for our three-hour ride to Québec City, because the cost between that and the next class down was negligible, plus Business Class includes breakfast on the train, and if there is one thing we like to do is eat! Before boarding, Tom and Kim bought some croissants (need to eat before we eat) and cappuccinos at the station and waited in the lounge as economy passengers were loaded in the back.

Upon boarding, we were offered the choice between an omelette with turkey sausage or cereal with honey (gotta try that at home). Both came with a fruit bowl and croissant or bagel. If you are looking for a scenic journey, this is not it. However, if you want unlimited cappuccinos and a smooth journey to Québec City, this is your (train) ticket (through ViaRail).

A little after noon we pulled into the beautiful Gare Du Palais in Québec City, constructed in 1915 by the Canadian Pacific Railway.

The interior is beautiful …

.. and so is the exterior, which due to a pouring rain, we didn’t get to see much of (luckily my friend the internet had better weather when it took a photo). The train station was designated a Heritage Railway Station in 1992.

We found the taxi line which had a long queue of wet people. After a couple of minutes, no taxis had shown up. “Hell with this,” we said. We crossed over to the opposite side and texted Uber, who arrived almost before the driver’s name came up on the screen. Some of those waiting for a cab might have missed Christmas. It was eight Canadian dollars plus tip to Uber to the charming Hôtel le Priory (15 Rue du Sault-au-Matelot), located in the heart of Old Québec City (Vieux-Québec), which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

After checking out our comfortable rooms …

… we met in the front lobby to explore "la capitale nationale.”

Québec City Fun Fact: Founded in 1608 as a fur trading colony, QC is the only walled city north of Mexico.

By now the rain had turned into a drizzle and there was a brisk wind (47 degrees F without wind chill). For wimpy Californians, that’s cold, but undaunted we were in search of, what else? a couple of historic churches. Reportedly God said, “What? That group again.”

Knowing there was a funicular and that our first stops would be at a higher elevation, I was hoping we could take that baby up. We reached a set of stairs leading downward, but knowing we were heading upward, we walked in the opposite direction in search of the funicular (a foreshadowing moment).

Within a couple of minutes we were on a curving, steep street, and I knew my bad knees were going to have a workout. After what seemed like an hour (in actuality, it was probably about five minutes) I spied a store. “Mary,” I said, “I didn’t know you owned a popcorn store.” Apparently neither did Mary, but there in front of us was Mary’s Boutique Popcorn Shop.

Already winded, it was a great respite, and the popcorn was unbelievably good (and I’m not a big popcorn guy). No rest for the weary, however, and upward we trudged, leaving kernels of caramel popcorn in our wake just in case they needed to find a deceased body at the top of the hill.

A level, albeit wet, street hadn’t looked this good since we were in Piemonte in 2018.

Our destination was the nearby Basilique-Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Québec. The church was burned during the British Siege in 1759, and then the interior burned again in 1922, but was completely recreated. Speaking of North American sites, this is the oldest Christian parish north of Mexico. The gilded altar is patterned after the one at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.

There are a number of paintings and other treasures dating back to the French regime, including a pewter sanctuary lamp near the right of the altar that was a gift from Louis XIV, one of the few items that survived the fire

The body of François de Laval, beatified by Pope John-Paul II in 1980, is in the funeral chapel. He was sent to Québec to “oversee the spiritual development of New France and became the first Roman Catholic bishop of Québec.” de Laval was often in ill health, since he would frequently deny himself the use of blankets and healthy food. His death came after his feet were frozen on the stone floor of the chapel as he prayed … or by an ulcer (so many stories, so little time).

It was a short walk in the rain to our next stop, the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, the first Anglican cathedral constructed outside the British Isles. Look closely and the exterior architecture looks slightly similar to London’s St. Martin-in-the-Fields, which we first visited back in 2013.

Cathedral of the Holy Trinity was built in the first years of the 19th century,

The Gallery Organ dates to 1895.

Many people are commemorated on the walls. General John Hale commanded a regiment in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. I’m certain Tracy would not be happy to be considered a “fond wife.”

Jumping Jehoshaphat! The stained glass window up front is a memorial to George Jehosephat Mountain, a British-Canadian Anglican bishop. It was installed in 1864 and was the first monument of its kind in Québec. “The window was made in England and shipped to Québec City in barrels of molasses to protect it from damage.” A sticky situation, indeed.

We were now headed to the highest point in Haute-Ville (“Upper Town”), but suddenly someone looked like they were giving me “the finger.” On the Place des Tourangelles stands a 1997 monument with a hand resting on a bunch of books. It commemorates the 350th anniversary of the death of Marie-de-l'incarnation, founder of the Ursulines. I had never heard of the Ursulines, who, as I found out, are a “Roman Catholic religious order founded in Italy whose primary concern is the education of girls and caring for the sick and needy.”

Nearby, we quickly stopped in the Ursulines Chapel and Mary of the Incarnation Center, which had not been on my trip-planning radar.

There were more memorials on the wall of the chapel (hey, that’s not Mel Brooks on the right, is it?) and …

… Marie’s coffin is in an adjacent room.

Now we were finally headed to the highest point in Haute-Ville, the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, whose imposing edifice can be seen from virtually anywhere in Québec City. This is considered one of Canada’s grand railway hotels, built by the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Mai Tai Tom Fun Fact: Canadian Pacific Railway and Fairmont were responsible for providing Tracy and me a nearly free 10-day honeymoon at plush hotels in Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper National Park in 1994 … I’ll have to tell that story one day when I find my old slides.

Now a prestigious hotel, it made its mark during World War II as the venue (for the First and Second Québec Conference in 1943 and 1944) where people like Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Vice-Admiral Lord Mountbatten, General George C. Marshall, and many others mapped out preparations for the Normandy D-Day invasions.

We were very close to the chateau when Mary decided to head down a nearby alley thinking it was where the entrance was located. Although Kim, Tracy and I were more than skeptical, we followed anyway. “Never in doubt … seldom right,” Kim quipped. Alas, we found ourselves near a kitchen. However, Mary did come up with a great idea two days later.

Eventually, we found an entrance and entered the grand lobby. Wow!

We had heard that the bar afforded great views, so we wandered through the hotel. The bar was packed, and the views were pretty non-existent due to the heavy rain. We’d return here tomorrow instead.
As we exited Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, not far away was a sign that read, “Funiculaire.” (We took this photo the following day). Citing the lyrics of the Grass Roots, “Where were you when I needed you?”

For $3,50 (cash only), we rode the funicular down, and the natives were lamenting the weather. “I don’t remember when it was this cold this early (October 2) in the year,” one woman said.

Exiting back down in Vieux-Québec, I thought I was in France (Cherbourg, to be exact). Holy bumbershoots Batman!

Umbrellas, umbrellas and more umbrellas seemingly floated above the cobblestone street of Rue du Cul de Sac (aka “Umbrella Alley”) in Quartier Petit Champlain. I knew we couldn’t be in Cherbourg because Catherine Deneuve could not be found.

Rain started pouring down again, so we popped into Le Bistrot Pape Georges, 8½ (rue du Cul-de-Sac). The photo is from the internet … it was dark. The playlist was perfect, and there were eight tired legs looking for a table and chairs.

We plopped down. Kim, Tracy and I enjoyed some beer and wine, while munching on a much-needed cheese platter. When in Québec City, do what the Québeckers do … Mary tried a Québeccoise; tall maple syrup whiskey and soda. It was tasty.

After our brief respite, we started exploring Old Town with its numerous charming shops and restaurants. We were not alone. As we would be told by locals, when the cruise ships arrive, the town more than doubles in population.

Stores were welcoming everyone with open arms and cash registers.

The signage was cute, but we decided candy would not be a prudent choice at this moment.

At a small cafe, this guy just wanted to “pig out,” but it seemed the patrons inside must have been hogging all the tables.

I paid this guy to play “Who’ll Stop The Rain,” and, as you can tell by his expression, he was enthralled. Actually, he was very nice and was quite good.

“What the …!” This store sells a popular Québec fashion line.

Le Lapin Sauté on Rue du Petit Champlain just missed the cut as one of our restaurant choices. I heard one of the rabbit dishes was large enough for two to split hares. We hopped away.

This shop had a very colorful spokesman, but you could tell by this photo taken in late afternoon, he had hit the wall.

As the crowds headed back to their respective mothership, we strolled the area for about half an hour. With the cold weather, Tracy said this coat looked inviting. The price, however, was not (even at the good exchange rate for Americans).

We meandered back under the umbrellas toward our hotel. Kim and Mary headed to the Hotel Priory for a nap, but Tracy had told me she wanted to stop at a place called Artéfact. “I thought you weren’t into ruins,” I said. She answered, “I do when they serve martinis.” Damn, I really did marry well.

Bar Artéfact is right down the street from Hotel Priory, and is located inside the boutique hotel Auberge-Saint Antoine. And there are ruins, too, besides Tracy’s husband. “The bar showcases relics dating back from six distinct eras in of our property’s history.” It’s all part of an old warehouse that dates all the way to 1822. The restaurant here, Chez Muffy, also garners great reviews.

We were more interested in a martini and a Manhattan, and these were good ones.

Since we we weren’t having dinner for about 90 more minutes, we decided we had walked enough for some more snacks. Thank God for walking or we’d gain 40 pounds on vacation.

Looking at the bar menu I spied poutine, and I realized I had yet to try this Québec classic dish of French fries and cheese curds topped with brown gravy. I figured I’d get to eat this coronary-on-a plate dish later in the week.

Although more elegant than most bars we visit, the ambiance was perfect, and we had a very personable bartender.

We arrived back to the hotel, took one of our patented 17-minute naps, and after freshening up, it was time for dinner. More rested, Kim and Mary joined us on our short journey back down the stairs to Bistro Sous le Fort (48 Rue Sous le Fort), which is situated very near the foot of the now omnipresent funicular.

There was no rain, and what had been a very crowded area just a few hours before, was now the quaint Vieux-Québec that locals enjoyed before the birth of cruise ships.

If first impressions are important for you, our waiter had me confident we’d be in for a good time. He was witty and quite intelligent. We had heard him chatting with a couple of other tables, both in different languages (none being English). As it turned out, he was fluent in five languages. I’m still trying to master one.

Looking at the wall of the restaurant, we knew he didn’t speak with a forked tongue.

We started with maple and ended with maple (hey, we’re in Canada!). To begin, Tracy and I ordered brie with maple and rum sauce. For my dinner entrée, I traveled a little outside my comfort zone and ordered red deer. I felt a little guilty since we had seen some of those deer (probably not the ones on my plate) near Broadway Tower in the Cotswolds six years before and also in Scotland in 2017.

From the deer to fish ’n chips to a chicken salad and even quiche, the dinner was delicious and was a great choice for night one in Québec City.

For dessert, I had a spectacular maple cake that Tracy attempted to replicate. She has since given up, but her cake recipe she is working on does contain maple..

Back outside, we nearly had the Old Town to ourselves as we walked back to the hotel.

On the Place Royale stands Notre-Dame-des-Victoires (Our Ladies of Victory). It is considered to be the oldest church in Canada built in stone that still has its same walls.

A few steps away, we turned to see the Fresque des Québécois, a fresco we had seen on the side of building earlier in the day, which was now lit. The mural “recounts the story of Québec City, weaving in visual allusions to its unique architecture and fortifications, and its larger-than-life personalities. Look closely at the building's windows: you'll see some 15 historic figures and nearly a dozen of Québec's leading writers and artists.” Very cool, and we’d learn more about it as the week progressed.

The four of us trudged the last couple of blocks back to Hotel Priory. We were able to accomplish a lot on our first half day in Québec City, but there were many more sights to behold.

Starting off the following day, tragedy was narrowly averted as Kim, Tracy and Mary nearly plummeted to their ultimate demise at a famed Québec City museum (or so it looked). We’d have one more day of rain to contend with, but that didn’t stop us from checking out an important battleground in Québec’s history and a park named for one of the world’s most famous women. With the inclement weather, we decided to pass up one outdoor sight that we’d hold off until tomorrow, when, according to weather reports, there might be some blue skies.

Tracy and I would have a surprisingly memorable lunch at an Italian restaurant, while Kim and Mary were able to sample poutine at a place near our hotel. Meeting back up, the four of us got that cocktail at Le Château Frontenac, and in a moment of weakness, after some window shopping (what’s happening to me?), I succumbed to the group’s request for (hard to believe) an afternoon nap.

Since one Italian restaurant wasn’t enough for us, we’d dine at a classic Québec City Italian establishment before finally taking a walk back down that hilly street from the night before. I was hoping my knees would survive.


Day Seven - Brrr!, Don’t Know Much About (Canadian) History, Optical Illusions, Taking A Pass, The Battlefield Becomes A Golf Course, Halloween & Joan, I Know These Guys, Mist Opportunity, Bella Bello, Cocktail At The Chateau, Rainy Day Napping, Two Italians Are Better Then One, Hail Caesar (Part 38) & Downhill Is Harder Than Uphill
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Old Feb 6th, 2020, 08:49 AM
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Maitaitom, we've been eagerly awaiting your Quebec, Quebec section. Of course, your text is greatly enhanced by the wonderful photos on your website! For us, it's a pictorial memory of our visit in 2010. (Our
TR of that trip was our first!) We also were there in early October. In our case, it was cold and extremely windy, and we also were told that it was unseasonably cold. That funiculaire did come in handy! We agree that the bar of the Frontenac was a great place for a vino! We'll look forward to the next chapter!
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Old Feb 6th, 2020, 05:50 PM
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Thanks, Tom. I was waiting for your take on Quebec. What a great place, isn't it? We visited in mid August and the weather was decent, just a little bit of rain one day. Did you do the zipline over the Montomorency Falls?
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Old Feb 7th, 2020, 11:22 AM
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"Did you do the zipline over the Montomorency Falls?"

I was lucky to walk over the bridge safely Autumn colors there were popping in early October.
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Enjoying this report and looking forward to the next chapter! You and your crew should return in winter and ride the (surprisingly scary) Terrasse Dufferin toboggan slide. We were staying at the Frontenac and rode it a couple times a day, gluttons for punishment.

Photo not mine--pulled from the internet

Au 1884 Plaisirs et saveurs - Ice cream bar - Toboggan slide Terrasse Dufferin
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Old Feb 8th, 2020, 02:23 PM
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Leely, I might try that.
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Old Feb 26th, 2020, 12:32 PM
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After a slight delay for yet another hospitalization (I better live long enough to finish this report), here's our second day in Québec City. Our second day in Québec City would be the last we’d see of inclement weather (thankfully). We started out at an interesting historical museum, where my traveling mates nearly plummeted to their demise. We's check out a site where one of the most famous battles in Québec took place, and then scouted out a beautiful park named after a heroic warrior who eventually was burned at the stake. We also walked some ramparts and found a number of monuments to some historical figures we all know. After lunch at a terrific Italian restaurant, we’d escape the rain at the gorgeous bar at the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac. Link below contains story with photos). Story without photos is under Kim and Mary nearly falling to their death.



Day Seven - Canadian History Lesson, Optical Illusions, Taking A Pass, The Battlefield Becomes A Golf Course, Halloween & Joan, Brrr!, I Know These Guys, Mist Opportunity, Bella Bello, Cocktail At The Chateau, Rainy Day Napping, Two Italians Are Better Then One, Hail Caesar (Part 38) & Downhill Is Harder Than Uphill

The forecast was rain free, so we were not surprised that it was pouring as we peered out the lobby of Hotel Priori on the way to the breakfast room. “Good to see that weather prognosticators in Canada are just as bad as ours at home,” I lamented. Unfortunately, they were correct on the temperature, a balmy 33 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rain or shine, warm or cold, one has to eat, and we enjoyed the hotel spread of pastries, eggs, bacon, sausage, cheese, fruit and cereal along with copious amounts of caffeine.

A block from our hotel stood Musée de la civilisation, although we took a rather roundabout way to get to it so Tracy could take her requisite flower photos.

Musée de la civilisation opened in 1988.

The museum is not only laden with historical artifacts, but the area near it is an integral part of Canadian history. Early in the Revolutionary War, on New Year’s Eve 1775, during the Bataille de Québec (Battle of Québec), the American Continental Army suffered its first major defeat as it attempted to swipe Canada from England. Instead of spending New Year’s Eve in Times Square, General (and future traitor) Benedict Arnold led his men in a blinding snowstorm to Vieux-Québec where a battle occurred a couple of blocks from where the Musée de civilisation now stands. The battle didn’t turn out well for the Americans … Arnold was wounded, many were killed and about two-thirds of his men were captured A plaque commemorates the event on the wall of the Musée de civilisation. (Arnold fared better than Major General Richard Montgomery. He was killed the same night in the Siege of St. Johns when he was hit in the head with Grapeshot fired by Canadian militia guarding the city).

Entering the lobby of this large museum, we knew it would be a Croc. Croc is a Québec satirical magazine which celebrated its tenth anniversary in 1989 by putting up this Time Capsule disguised as a “mailbox designed as a space shuttle.” Among the items inside the time capsule is one of Celine Dion’s handkerchiefs, which is certainly nothing to sneeze at.

Also in the lobby, of more historical interest, is an 18th century Longboat, a main means of transportation back then. Three Longboats were discovered in 1985.

Upon entering the actual museum ($17CAD), we visited the first permanent exhibition, “Our Story: First Nations and Inuit in the 21st Century.”

There are numerous displays throughout chronicling the “11 First Nations in Canada.” We could tell they were trying to drum up some business.

There were lots of small Inuit sculptures …

.. and plenty of artifacts to take in along the way.

I first thought these were weirdly shaped Canadian tennis racquets until Kim informed me they were actually snowshoes.

Tea drinking was just as important to the Brits in French Canada as this 18th century ceramic Wedgewood cake or cheese bowl shows (can’t have tea without food).

Seems Canada has its fair share of racism, too. As the card read, “Europeans began romanticizing the indigenous people of North America … as a result, Abroriginal young people are constantly confronted with a narrow and biased image of themselves. Many commercial products still attest to this phenomenon even today.”

In a matter of minutes, tragedy nearly took the lives of three-fourths of our California exploration party in an area that seems like it’s mostly for kids … and kid-like adults. For some reason, Tracy, Mary and Kim decided to climb a building and then had to hold on for dear life. As I calculated Tracy’s insurance worth, I realized this was just an optical illusion, and my future life with Shania Twain would now only be a pipe dream.

The other permanent exhibition, “People of Québec . . . Then and Now,” looks back more than four centuries with items such as flags, clothing, furniture and musical instruments. This is a 1940 Wurlitzer Jukebox. We boogied on.

I passed by the statue of Canadian statesman Sir George-Étienne Cartier, who we learned was not a relation to Jacques Cartier, the explorer who claimed Canada for France and is also credited with naming the country Canada.

In a puzzling development there in front of me stood hockey legend Maurice the “Rocket” Richard, who helped the Montréal Canadians win eight Stanley Cups. He even signed the puzzle.

After wandering through the remaining displays, we exited and walked a short distance in the cold and rain to catch an Uber to the Musée Nacional des Beau Arts du Québec, situated on the Parc des Champs-de-Bataille (Battlefields Park). We looked at the brochure for its Greatest Hits Tour, and the four of us unanimously concluded we weren’t in the mood for any more museums on this day.

We stopped next door for a quick look at the Neo-Gothic Église Saint-Dominique.

The first Mass was held here on Christmas Day, 1930.

Not to be confused with Kirstie Alley, we were now meandering through the Grande Allée, in one of the most upscale parts of Québec City. Gorgeous homes and colorful fall foiliage made us almost forget it was raining, well, until I stepped in a large puddle.

We passed by the Louis S. St. Laurent Heritage House, which was built in 1913. St. Laurent was a prominent lawyer and became Minister of External Affairs (the same post held by Bill Clinton and numerous other politicians in the U.S.). He then became a leader of the Liberal Party and was the Prime Minister of Canada from 1948 to 1957. The house received heritage value and was recognized for such in 2001.

We saw a sign for the Plains of Abraham, made a quick right, and, once again stately homes were the order of the day.

But there were other smaller structures that caught our eyes. In the early 19th century, the Brits feared the Americans would attempt to annex Lower and Upper Canada, so they built these towers to prevent them (or other invaders) from attacking existing fortifications.

Looking at this structure, I believe the British also thought Americans were scared of spiders.

The Parc des Champs-De-Bataille-Plaines of Abraham lay ahead where a number of battles between the British and French took place. The park is named after Abraham Martin (but not John), who used the plains as a pasture for his cows. It was the site of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, fought in 1759 as part of the French and Indian War.

Mai Tai Tom Fun Fact: In 1874, the British created The Quebec Golf Club. They “built a 14-hole course on the Plains of Abraham at what used to be called the Cove Fields, between the Citadel, the Grande Allée and Martello towers 1 and 2. A farmer’s cows were originally used to cut the grass, a job which was taken over by a horse-drawn mower in the 1880s.” Since it was only 14 holes, I might have been able to shoot less than 100.

A lovely park loomed close by. You didn’t need to see the name of the park to know who it is named after.

The rectangular Parc Jeanne d’Arc combines the French classic style garden with British-style beds. Luckily, I didn’t see any stakes. The rectangular garden was designed in 1938 and contains more than 150 species of “annuals, bulbs and perennials.”

Another Mai Tai Tom Fun Fact: The Canadian National Anthem, O Canada (originally called “Chant national”), was played here (before it became a beautiful park) for the first time on June 24, 1880. The lyrics have been amended numerous times, and it became the officially adopted national anthem of Canada in 1980.

You could also surmise it was nearing Halloween by the decorations and vignettes surrounding the park.

Since we were in Canada, I knew this duel could not have been between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, however with the very cold temperatures we ere experiencing, one of those guys might be Aaron Brrrr.

These two made a lovely couple.

We left the park and started back toward the Grande Allée.

In a couple of minutes we stood at a monument for the late French president, Charles de Gaulle. This statue was erected 30 years after he had made his speech at Montréal’s City Hall (see Chapter 2) supporting the province’s independence. There were both cheers and jeers on the day the statue was erected.

We continued through this charming neighborhood …

… toward La Citadelle de Québec, constructed at the behest of the Duke of Wellington. It seems Wellington had a beef with the Americans, who he thought would attack after the War of 1812. We popped into the nearby Plaines of Abraham Museum but passed on it as we had decided to tour the Citadelle on the following day when the weather was supposed to clear up after our scheduled early tour of the nearby Parliament building.

We walked some of the ramparts, where Mary decided she would have me take one of those vacation pictures where people plummet to their death, and people on the internet laugh at them. “Haven’t you had enough danger today?” I yelled. Somehow, Mary made it safely back to California unscathed.

Kim said, “Let’s go see the St. Louis Arch,” which made no sense since we were nowhere near Missouri (or as Donald Trump calls it, “Kansas”). As it turned out, Porte St. Louis is one of the gates of Québec City’s ramparts (remember, it’s the only remaining fortified city in North America). Having more lives than a cat, the gate was built in 1694, demolished in 1791, rebuilt shortly thereafter, demolished in 1871 and this arch was built again in 1880. This gate has had more cosmetic surgery than Wayne Newton.

Nearby are the busts of FDR and Churchill. This monument commemorates the 1943 and 1944 visits to Québec City of the British prime minister and U.S president where the two participated in conferences to discuss how to end World War II.

There was also a monument to those who “gave their lives in South Africa while fighting for the EMPIRE” from 1899-1902.

We were back on the Grand Allée searching for a lunch place, but nothing was calling our name.

Kim and Mary decided to head back to the hotel, via a church, and dined at the restaurant next to our hotel, where they had crepes and poutine. Damn, I was still poutine deprived at this juncture.

Meanwhile, Tracy and I wandered until we lucked into a fantastic Italian restaurant called Bello (73 Rue Saint Louis). We had reservations for Italian food on this evening, but really, can you ever have too much pasta?

Bello’s beautiful decor made this a pleasant spot to enjoy a meal, and since it was nearly 2 p.m., it was relatively empty. We loved their playlist, which we learned was Sirius Chill Radio (no wonder I was relaxed). I started with a fantastic Prosciutto e Melone, and finished with a half order of pasta with a spectacular Iberian chorizo with spring peas. Wow!

Tracy opted for the arugula salad and a tasty Minestrone (perfect for a rainy day).

As you can tell, I quite enjoyed my Spanish chardonnay, as well.

We definitely needed to bring Kim and Mary back here tomorrow (a sad foreshadowing moment).

Well, what do you do after a relaxing lunch with vino? We met back up with Kim and Mary for cocktails at Fairmont Le Château Frontenac in the classic 1608 Bar à vin et fromage.

Luckily, we were able to grab the last available table (near the gorgeous bar). Tracy and Mary were considering champagne, but our affable server (who told us he is transferring to California so he can surf) told them he very much enjoyed the Prosecco. Being equal opportunity bubbly girls, they went with his recommendation.

Kim decided on an Irish whiskey, while I once again took Manhattan.

Tracy surreptitiously attempted to take long range photos of the two colorful cocktails at the table adjacent to us. Finally, we just asked them if they minded us taking a couple of photos, and they were amenable.

We did a little window shopping, and in a moment of compassion, I acquiesced to the group’s plea for a nap. I’m becoming a real softy in my old age. So down the funicular we traveled, walked back to the hotel and, truth be told, I really enjoyed laying down for awhile (hopefully none of my traveling partners will read this part or it might become a vacation trend).

A little after 7 p.m. we caught an Uber to Ciccio Cafe (875 Rue de Claire-Fontaine) which is located just a tad off the beaten path. It was quiet on a Wednesday night and like most every restaurant we had dined, the playlist was great and not intrusive. The interior, itself, was charming.

The dinner, service and ambiance was perfect and I throughly enjoyed my Spaghetti al Limone (I told you … you can never can have enough pasta).
The bottomless house wine didn’t hurt either. Thankfully, Kim was able to order a Caesar Salad.

Loved this machine where the owner would select his music. I need one at home. By the way, you can’t go wrong with Whiter Shade of Pale on your playlist. Fortunately, Tracy, who loves this song, now knows the group’s name is not Protocol Harlem.

Afterward we had Uber drop off us at Basilique-Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Québec, so we could do a little more window-shopping, and the three of them watched to see if I fell down the steep stairs back toward our lodging location.

We believed the tall, pink skyscraper was the Édifice Price (no relation to Vincent), constructed in the early 1930s. It’s the tallest building in Old Québec’s historical district.

Safely back down the stairs, we looked out at the quiet street in Vieux-Québec devoid of the cruise crowd and headed back for sleep.

On the way, we looked once again at the historic Fresque des Québécois.

If you want to impress friends who might travel with you to Québec City, memorize this before you go. You can be a real name-dropper.

With good weather forecasted for the following day, we needed an early start because Kim had secured 9:30 tour reservations at Parliament. We would then head over to the Citadelle and its museum, while also taking another very interesting guided tour.

After lunch, we stopped in a former prison, which is now a library and walked through an alley of artists. We made plans for a bus tour the following day, rode down my now favorite means of Québec City transportation and discovered a pub that denotes what a pub should be.

Our dinner would consist of Boreal cuisine, a cuisine we knew nothing about. But when in Québec City ….


Day Nine - A Visit From The Sun, Parliamentary Procedure, Behind Closed Doors, “I’m Making Bombs”, Hilarious (And Informative) Tour Guide, Rachel Takes A Shot, Don’t Paint The Goat Blue, Marvelous Views, Prison Time, The Chardonnay Shut Out, Prison Time (Part Deux), A Penny For Your Thoughts, Art Alley, Pub Stop and Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes
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Old Mar 1st, 2020, 07:15 PM
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Still following along and glad you did not trip down the stairs. Hope you are feeling better.
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Old Mar 19th, 2020, 12:31 PM
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Although travel to Canada is now prohibited, through the magic of the internet, today you will spend a gloriously beautiful Day Three in Québec City. We would start by getting a civics lesson on our tour of Québec City’s Parliament Building. We’d then take a tour of a mighty fortress with an interesting history (including a painted goat) that afforded commanding views of Québec City. We’d also visit a learning center that was once Québec City’s first prison. It gives one another perspective of “hanging around the library.” A visit to a cool pub and finally dinner at a famed restaurant with a cuisine we were unfamiliar (but was delicious) capped off another great day in this beautiful city. So come and cross the border (no passport or coronavirus testing required) to our neighbors to the north in the link below. (can't get cut and paste to work correctly on this one ... sorry)


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Great report, as usual, Tom. Wonderful memories revived of our trip to Quebec. So many similar experiences. We, too, appreciated that funiculaire as well as having drinks in the Frontenac. Thanks for posting, a welcome diversion from COVID-19!
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Old Apr 1st, 2020, 10:26 AM
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On a gorgeous final full day in Canada, we’d hit the countryside just outside of Québec City. We would start at Chute Montmorency, where Québec’s autumn colors were beginning to pop as we walked above the raging waterfall. We’d then a take a little tour of a pretty island that included a stop for some unique (and delicious) ice cream. We’d also visit one of the most gorgeous basilicas (Sanctuaire Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré) we’ve seen on any of our trips, which receives upward of one million visitors per year. One of the most colorful posts we’ve ever done awaits you in the link below.


Our last day in Québec City would not actually be spent in Québec City because we were going to cruise the nearby countryside by bus and visit Chute Montmorency, an island where we’d taste some incredible ice cream, a copper store and Sanctuaire de Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré.

A quick stop in Cafe La Maison Smith in Place-Royale to pick up some sandwiches and cookies for lunch and then we took the Funiculaire du Vieux-Quebec up to Fairmont Le Château Frontenac for the final time.

Arriving a little early we strolled the promenade for a bit.

On the nearby Dufferin Terrace stands the Champlain Monument that honors the founder of the city back in 1608.

Alongside that monument is the UNESCO Monument, which commemorates Vieux-Québec’s designation as a World Heritage site in 1985.

The other nearby statue is the Récollets Monument. The Récollets were a “reform branch of Friars that became known as Franciscans, who served an important role as early missionaries to the French colonies in Canada, and earned immortality for reportedly brewing the first beer in New France in 1620.”

Before hopping on the bus, we saw the Canadian flag flying proudly over the Museé du Fort building.

At 10:30 we hopped on our bus for a tour that would take approximately two hours longer than Gilligan’s tour was supposed to take. Our bus driver, Jean, turned out to be one funny, and very informative guy who entertained our full bus during the entire five hours.

As we drove through the countryside to our first destination, Chute (Falls) Montmorency, Jean regaled us with historical stories and facts interspersed with some great humor. Dropping us off outside the Manoir Montmorency (which has an interpretation center, gift shop and restaurant), he gave us specific instructions on what time we should meet back at the bus.

Autumn colors bedazzled as we hiked to the observation deck near the falls. Above us was the suspension bridge, where we would shortly walk over the falls.

Also on display was an alternate route to reach the falls. If a bus sounds too comfy, park at the bottom and take the 487-step Panoramic Staircase. My knees took one look at that staircase and thanked me for purchasing a bus ticket. There’s also a 300-meter double zip line once you get to the top.

We crossed the suspension bridge with the falls cascading beneath us as we traversed against a gusty wind.

Mai Tai Tom Fun Fact: Chute Montmorency is 99 feet taller than Niagara Falls.

Indigenous people had long known about the waterfall, but it was the ever-present Québec founder, Samuel de Champlain, who named it Chute Montmorency. Charles de Montmorency was the Admiral of France and Brittany. Alas, he died without ever making it to Canada.

The cold blasts of air were invigorating, and the brillant autumn colors were on full display. I told the group, “I guess you could call these Falls colors.” I was suddenly alone.

We took a different walking route (but just as colorful) back to the bus and arrived shortly before the appointed time. Unfortunately, one group got back to the bus late (as they would at a couple of other spots along the route). Personally, I would have left them there, which is why I will never be a tour director.

A short distance from the falls, we crossed a bridge and found ourselves on the charming Île d’Orléans. One of the passengers in front of me, turned and said, “You are in for a treat.” I knew he must be honest, because he looked just like Wilford Brimley. He added, “This will be the best ice cream you’ve ever tasted.”

Within minutes the bus pulled in front of Chocolaterie de l'île d'Orléans St-François. Wilford said the chocolate-dipped cone was his favorite (turns out he’d taken the tour a few days previously, but returned to take some guests). And here I thought he was just a Quaker Oatmeal guy.

Tracy and I, however, decided to order the Blanc á l’érable (White with Maple).

Mai Tai Tom Helpful Hint: Be sure to get a spoon because as soon as the shell hardens, it is virtually impossible to bite into it. Oh, and it was really, really good!

Kim ordered the dark chocolate while Mary enjoyed her chocolate with salted caramel.

The island is best known for its agriculture, but as we continued on we also admired the beautiful summer homes.

Passing by the falls once again, we headed toward our next destination.

Along the way we paid our respects to the Addams Family and passed by a dwelling where hobbits must reside.

Next stop: Albert Gilles Boutique et Musée, a shop that has churned out embossed copper for 93 years. Upon entering, we were given the history of the family-owned shop and then a demonstration.

I walked around the museum and took some photos until I saw the dreaded “no photograph” graphic.

Albert Gilles was renowned for his religious art, and his relief works are included on many churches in Canada, the United States and Jamaica. We’d also see his work at our next site.

A short ten minute ride from Albert Gilles Boutique et Musée stands Sanctuaire Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. The sky kept turning from blue to cloudy, but when we reached the basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary’s mother (and Québec’s patron saint), the sky turned a cerulean blue hue. More than a million pilgrims visit this site each year.

Legend has it that St. Anne helped save sailors from shipwrecks on the St. Lawrence, so a wooden chapel was built here in 1658. It was demolished by a flood (hey, there’s only so much a saint can do), and a new church was built in the 1880s, which was subsequently destroyed by fire in 1922. Today’s Neo-Roman basilica was constructed in 1926 and finished in 1946.

The gold statue of St. Anne on top of the basilica is from the previous church that burned in 1922.

And what a basilica it is! Constructed in the shape of a Latin cross, the interior comprises 22 chapels, 18 altars and a staggering 214 stained glass windows. This stained glass windows of the transepts (right) are dedicated to Saint Anne recalling “two great sanctuaries, one in Brittany and the other in Jerusalem.”

Before stepping inside we saw the doors (700 pounds each) that have reliefs depicting scenes from the Gospel courtesy of Albert Gilles. There’s also a statue of Mary, among many others.

We were given 40 minutes to tour the basilica, and although that is usually more than enough time to visit most churches, it certainly was not to visit this masterpiece of architecture.

The magnificent mosaic ceiling details the life of St. Anne (called “Good Saint Anne”), shown with Mary and baby Jesus below.

Mai Tai Tom Fun Fact: There are over three million glittering mosaic pieces in the basilica all of which had to be rebuilt after the fire in 1922.

In this scene at the heart of the apse, Anne is giving fruit to Jesus (even back then they knew the importance of 5 A Day).

The Statue of St. Anne is a spot where pilgrims gather.

Below is The Chapel of the Calvary.

I think this chapel had something to do with birth.

In this chapel is a Holy relic of Saint Anne presented to the basilica by Pope John XXIII.

There were also “Radiant Chapels,” each one dedicated to a saint. That’s Saint Alphonsus on the left and St. Patrick on the right welcoming pilgrims from Ireland.

St. Joseph was the son-in-law of Saint Anne, and I also believe the inventor of aspirin for children. Don’t hold me to that.

St. Benedict and St. Joachim, the first husband of St. Anne.

St. John Baptist de la Salle (“The Teacher”) …

… and St. John The Baptist, patron of French Canadians.

This is the Holy Family Chapel, and a ceiling mosaic from one of the rooms.

On the lower level of the basilica is the colorful The Chapel of the Immaculate Conception.

The chapel is decorated with paintings by two French painters.

Mosaics representing nature are prevalent throughout this chapel.

A few more chapels …

.. and it was time to savor what was still a gorgeous day here at Sanctuaire Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré.

One last stop at the bottom of Chute Montmorency for a few more photo ops. If you don’t want to climb the stairs, this would be my choice from this area.

Mary met a friendly owl who didn’t seem to give a hoot about anything. It was back on the bus, where our jovial bus driver wasn’t so jovial when the same people from earlier were once again ten minutes late.

Jean quickly got back into the spirit of the day regaling us with more stories as he drove back to where we started our excursion. I would highly recommend this tour as a stress-free way to spend your day combining nature with architecture (and ice cream).

Kim and Mary went to collect our rental car as we’d be driving to the Montreal airport tomorrow afternoon. Their trip back to the hotel was quite eventful as the GPS system led them down not one, but two, wrong way streets. That’s their story and they are sticking to it!

Back at Hotel Priori we packed our bags and at 7:30 headed across the street to dinner at Ristorante il Matto. The modern looking restaurant had a nice feel to it, but unfortunately we had a server who must have been on her first day. Service was uneven, and the food, truthfully, was nothing to write home (or in this post) about.

Afterward, while Tracy and Mary were having a last glass of vin blanc at Artefact …

… Kim and I took one last stroll around old Québec City.

Passing by Notre-Dame-des-Victoires on Place-Royale …

… we headed down the steps where we would soon be at Quartier Petit Champlain …

… and its charming umbrellas.

The old town was quiet on this Friday night. The cruise ship passengers were back in their cramped cabins, and we had the town almost all to ourselves.

Even with it being so quiet, our little friend, peering inside, was still unable to grab a table at the restaurant.

One last frescoed building, and Québec City was history.

Québec City was a wonderful experience, but our time in Canada was growing short. Tomorrow, we’d hit Chemin du Roy for a bit as we headed to the Montréal airport for our flights home. As I settled into our comfortable bed, I was halfway asleep when I awoke with a start and a terrible thought .… “Damn, I still haven’t had any poutine!!!!”

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Old Apr 1st, 2020, 11:11 AM
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Tom, another fact-filled and entertaining report! Your description of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre' was totally enjoyable. Following our visit, our notes were quite sketchy. With a few days having a rental car, we were able to explore quite a bit of the area surrounding Quebec. We had considered a return to Quebec City this coming fall, wanting to travel more out the Saint Laurence Seaway. But that plan will have to be put on hold! Thanks for the great reporting.
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Old Apr 15th, 2020, 08:07 AM
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It seems like a lifetime ago since we returned from our 2019 autumn journey to Montréal and Québec City. Tracy and I hope you are all staying healthy. Here is our final day in Canada (plus a recap). On the last day, we hopped in the car for a colorful drive on the Chemin du Roy (King’s Highway) from Québec City back to the Montréal airport. Autumn colors were popping as we enjoyed a crisp (ok, really cold) morning exploring a couple of places along the way. And did I finally get my taste of poutine? Let’s see. Hopefully our travels near and far will resume when it is safe for us all.


We bid “au revoir” to Hôtel Le Priori and it was time to hit the road back to Montréal. Part of our journey would take us on Chemin du Roy (King’s Highway), along the north bank of the St. Lawrence River. We passed through small towns, enjoying the autumn colors and savoring our final day in Québec.

Not surprisingly, we found an old church to wander through. Église Sainte-Famille in Cap-Santé, which was constructed in the mid 1700s and is “one of the last examples of the typical French Regime structure” and is “ the sole remaining monumental church from the French Regime period.” The two large bell towers couldn’t be missed.

The interior is beautiful.

It was redone in the mid 19th century, because locals supposedly “did not like the look.”

It looks good now.

What really stood out were the stained glass windows.

We hung out here longer than expected admiring them.

Adjacent to the church is the Cimetière Sainte-Famille. Although we had said we wouldn’t be caught dead there, we meandered around for a bit enjoying the tranquility on a bright, chilly morning (the temperature was up to 40 degree).

The cemetery afforded views of the St. Lawrence.

Before departing, we noticed across the street stood three very differently sized chairs.

Never ones to miss a unique photo op, we posed before heading out.

Our next stop was another church with a cemetery on the premises, L’église Saint-Charles-Boromée in Grondimes.

We attempted to go inside, but all the doors were locked.

Apparently, Église Sainte-Famille had warned them we were on the way.

The church was built in the mid 1800s, and the two bell towers were completed in 1895.

We kept driving through town after town, but realized at one point we’d better hurry to make it to the Montréal airport. No time for lunch meant, once again, no time for poutine.

We dropped the car at the airport and told Kim and Mary we’d meet them for a late snack. Thanks to another security issue, we were a little late.

Tracy had her usual patting down (now standing at six consecutive times, she’s been pulled out of line. I started writing my new book, “I Married A Terrorist.”

Meanwhile, in that little pod where you have to do contortions so TSA people can see your private parts, I also was patted down (guilt by association?), and then the guy put my bag on the “We’re Going to Inconvenience You Just A Little More Before You Go” conveyor belt.

As I waited for the security guy to go through my dirty underwear, a middle-aged woman in front of me was “shocked” when the agent found a boxcutter in her bag. “My sister must have put it there!” she exclaimed. We did not see her again.

After going through my bag and realizing that I am not a “67-year old arthritic guy on blood thinners who needs two knee replacements” terrorist, we were on our way. Well, we had nothing else to for a half hour anyway, and is yet another reason I always like to get to the airport early.

MaiTai Tom Digression: Before we left on vacation for Canada, we kept coming across something called poutine. Allegedly a “must eat” when you are in Québec. We were skeptical: fries, cheese curds and gravy. Hmmm, sounded like a heart attack waiting to happen. Even though we had several people recommend places for the best poutine, we did not bite (literally). Not until the very last day (hour) of vacation, while we were eating a late lunch in the airport, did we decide to try the national specialty. I ordered a small version and tentatively dug in. WOW! What the heck is a cheese curd and why does it taste so damn GOOD? Too GOOD! I immediately ordered another round of poutine. From Quebec City’s Tourism website, “A guilty pleasure where three ingredients fuse into a typically Québécois meal: French fries and fresh cheese curds topped with abundant gravy. It’s decadent, highly caloric and painstakingly good.” They rolled me to our gate.

As we finished lunch, an announcement came over the speaker saying Kim and Mary’s plane would be an hour late taking off. It turned out paramedics had to meet the plane upon arrival in Montréal, which delayed it.

It had been another memorable trip for the Mai Tai Four. Next stop: Portugal (hopefully)


This had been a trip long talked about, and we are happy we finally pulled the trigger on it.

From the light shows of Montréal …

… to the quaint old town of Québec City …

… to the vibrant autumn colors, our trip north of the border was spectacular.

Add in some cool museums …

… historic sites …

… surprisingly lovely gardens …

… along with many gorgeous churches in Montréal …

… and Québec City It adds up to quite a great time.

Thank you Québec!

Last edited by maitaitom; Apr 15th, 2020 at 08:15 AM.
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