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Trip Report Fabulous five days/Montreal & Quebec City

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Motivation: I had just completed a grueling battery of medical tests culminating in good news. This, after helping take care of my three grandsons, ages 5, 3 and nine months, for six weeks due to my daughter's double hip replacement, I truly needed a vacation, big time and with all the bells and whistles.

When I was researching destinations I was intrigued with the idea of seeing Montreal and Quebec City. While I had spent time as a youngster visiting family in the Toronto area, I had never been to that part of Canada. Surfing on line I found a five day, four night trip offered by a travel agency. Using this as an outline, I tweaked and customized it to my particular interests, making all my own arrangements and upgrading the hotel stays and train travel.

Hotels: Fairmont Queen Elizabeth, Montreal
Fairmont Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City

Rail travel: VIA Canada Rail, Business Class

Day one: I was able to check in early, as soon as I arrived just before noon, having taken the private elevator up to the 18th Gold Level floor which offered a full buffet breakfast, snacks all day and hors d'oeuvres from 5-7 pm along with a full honor bar. The concierge on this floor directed me to the Beaux Arts Musee, a 15 minute walk away. I had researched this museum on line and planned to have lunch there in the Beaux Arts Cafe, see the Gaultier exhibit, then check out some of the highlights of the original wing. Unfortunately, no where on line was the information that much of the original museum, across the street from the modern, is undergoing renovation and not accessible. But I made the best of it, had a great lunch in the Cafe of duck confit with mashed sweet potato and salad then enjoyed the Gaultier exhibit which was, well, uberGaultier.

From there a taxi down to the Old Port area for the Amphitour bus. This tour encompasses the port area then plops itself in the St. Lawrence River, for a sky line view of the city. Narrated by an actor in costume, this was an hour and a half of fun fast paced sightseeing!

Taxi back to the hotel to rest before dinner in the hotel's swank Beaver Club Restaurant. This particular restaurant is only open Thursday through Saturday and since I had a $25 per day food and bev credit coming I decided to use it toward a posh dinner. As a senior female traveling solo, I do my wandering around for a restaurant at lunch and stick to the hotel for dinner. A signature champagne cocktail, Lobster timbal, prime rib and a lime souffle with
Tequila sorbet made for a very fine, if pricey dinner.

Day 2: spent a leisurely morning in the Gold Lounge prior to a 1:30 three hour coach tour, then walked two blocks over to the Tourist Bureau. The tour was delayed due to the annual gay pride parade, as main thoroughfares were closed off. We got going close to 2:00 for a very comprehensive overview of Montreal, narrated by a charming, articulate drIver. My only negative comment is that the tour was perhaps a half an hour too long.

A short walk back to the hotel, hors d'ouvres from 5:00-7:00 along with a glass of champagne in the lounge was dinner. Then, a restful evening reading in my room.

After a wonderful breakfast of scrambled eggs and sweet buttered crepes, fruit, croissants, etc., packed and checked out for the three hour train trip to Quebec City. The Canadian Railway, VIA's, Central Station stop is on the sub level of the hotel, so an elevator ride was
all that was needed. So convenient.

I had purchased a round trip Business Class ticket on line and needed to show the printed voucher at the ticket booth first to get the actual tickets, then was directed to the Panorama Lounge to await the departure announcement. Very much like the airport clubs, comfy seating, coffee, tea, soft drinks complimentary. At departure time an announcement was made and we passengers filed out to the escalator directly in front of the lounge which led to the track. Car 1 is the Business car and there is adequate stowing space for luggage just at the entry and through the galley area.

The train pulled out exactly on time, smoothly and silently as the stewart rolled out the drinks cart. Whoa! This was going to be quite a train ride, loving it already! One vodka/tonic later menus were passed out. My choice of three entrees was pork tenderloin with potatoes and grilled veggies. Goat cheese salad first, with red or white wine. Dessert was two tasty petit fours, tea or coffee. As the countryside rolled by I was one happy camper. Ahhh, old fashioned comfort and service. Had I died and gone to heaven?

Arrived to Quebec City at 4:00 pm and after a ten minute cab to the Fairmont Chateau
Fontenac, checked in on the 14th floor, Gold Level, to settle into a gorgeous room at the end of the hall. Surely, this must be heaven. So this is how the other half live.

Had the concierge book a 6:00-8:00 tour of the city immediately. Freshened up, had some hors d'ouevres in the lounge and off I went down to the lobby tour desk. The tour desk rep escorted me and one other couple who were also staying at the hotel, down to the lower level side street exit, where the minivan coach was waiting for us. So far, this trip has been going amazingly well, with no ugly surprises, which any traveler knows can happen on the turn of a dime even after excrutiating hours of pre planning.

Off we went, all eight of us, to see Quebec City, with another wonderful coach driver who was full of information and lots of anecdotes. Two hours later back at the hotel where I picked up a bowl of nuts, cookies and juice for a snack before bed. The view from my room is of the old city, very European, with many church steeples close by and a few high rise office buildings in the distance.

Day 4: up and out after a fabulous breakfast in, you guessed it, the lounge. Arg, if only I could eat this well every day. After checking email on my iPad - free wi fi - did I mention that, off I went for a walk around the Upper Old Town looking for souvenirs for my family. I had orders from my son to make sure and sample the Poutine while in Quebec or else. So, of course I researched this by asking the tour driver of the night before his recommendation. Who better? Ashton in the Upper Town was what he said so I made my leisurely way there while shopping. Yum. Ordered a "mini" of French fries with gravy and cheese curds. Try it, you'll like it!

Back to the hotel to dump my shopping and freshen up. Across a vey small park right in front of the hotel entrance, was the Tourist Office where the 2:30 pm Food Tour began. This one was right up my alley. Extremely affable group of eight again, one other single lady like me, with a most charming Quebeoise tour leader. We actually started the tour on the hotel property's government run liquor distributor, the S.A.Q., for a taste of ice cider wines. Our guide then led us through the Upper Town to a formal French restaurant for an amuse bouche of melon soup finished with a tiny roll up of proscuito. As we strolled inside and then
outside of the old city walls, we stopped at five other locations for a lamb pate appetizer along with a tasting of wine at a small bistro, cheese and fruit at a well known deli, maple syrup tasting, crepes of ham and cheese a la Brittany with cider and, finally, a chocolate
tasting. It was a lot of walking but so worth it for the neighborhood views and history gained. After three hours i was pooped and our lovely guide kindly called a cab to take me back to
the hotel.

A few hors d'ouevres in the lounge and a rest of a couple hours, then down to La Terrase Restaurant in the hotel for dinner. A glass of prosecco, the famous white pea soup (delicious) the hotel is known for and a tasty burger, along with maple creme brûlée was dinner this night.

Up and breakfast once again, you know where, then packed and to the train station for the return trip to Montreal. I did not look into flying out of Quebec City, as there was no great
rush and I wanted the experience of the train travel.

On arrival in Montreal the cab from Trudeau Int'l airport to the Hotel was a whopping $45.00. I overheard talk of an airport bus, so looked into it with the concierge. Here's how it went. Correct change of $8.00, four Canadian "toonies", bus stop directly across the street from Queen Elizabeth Hotel. After exiting the train with luggage in tow, accessed the hotel elevator, dashed across Rene Laveque and not even four minutes later ensconced in a very crowded, standing room only, bus. A very kind young man offered me a seat, eh voila, 35 minutes later at the airport. Made my way to the AA counter, filled out a declaration form, dropped the luggage, through customs and security to my gate. Uneventful, quiet flight home to O'Hare, plane half occupied. Mission accomplished.

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