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Quebec City and Montreal Trip Report July 25-August 4

Quebec City and Montreal Trip Report July 25-August 4

Old Aug 24th, 2022, 07:44 AM
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Quebec City and Montreal Trip Report July 25-August 4

Quebec City and Montreal July 25-August 4, 2022

Thanks to everyone who helped plan this trip. I had 7 nights in Quebec City, staying with a local Francophone friend who kindly took me many places and was my guide, then 3 nights in Montreal. My first trip to Canada but hopefully not my last.

Monday, July 25th . . . Up at 4:00 a.m., leaving home at 4:45 for the airport shuttle. Anxious about the logistics of the first day (having my ArriveCan app vaccination documents approved, connecting with the 2:00 Orleans express shuttle from Montreal to Quebec City, etc.) But all went smoothly; Atlanta airport security was fast, I was in the waiting area for my Delta 9:50 a.m. flight by 7:30.

It was a pretty landing into Montreal . . . coming over the lakes of upstate New York and then seeing the St. Lawrence River. We were herded through a checkpoint for the ArriveCan documentation but it was fast, as was customs.

I had a little trouble finding the waiting spot for my Orleans Express bus (and encountered a nervous 16 year old from Texas waiting for the Express bus to Ottawa which was 20 minutes late – it was his first flight ever and he was on his own).

My bus was on time; we headed into their main Montreal station for a short stop and then out again. Next stop would be mine; Sainte Foy station in Quebec City.

It’s not a particularly scenic interstate, I think, between the cities but still a good introduction to a different landscape. Flat farm land leaving Montreal; more frequent river crossings as we got closer to Quebec City. But the big surprise, which I noticed throughout the trip, was the lack of big trucks on the roads, especially compared to the United States. Made for more pleasant road travel. I noticed a sign on the Montreal pier my last day that proclaimed that 80% of Quebec goods entered the province via the St. Lawrence River so I am guessing that took most of the pressure off the roads.

We arrived at the Sainte Foy station a few minutes early; then it was only a few minutes drive to my friend’s house and I was 1500 miles northeast of where I had started the morning. After supper, I enjoyed just walking in my friend's neighborhood, we walked a few blocks, crossing a busy bike & walking paved trail, down to the St. Charles River trail. It was a beautiful, fast flowing river; we could hear a waterfall. And along the trail, there were ripe wild raspberries, small and delicious. This was also my first encounter with the wonderful fresh Canadian breeze; a welcome change from hot, still summer air in Georgia.

Tuesday, July 26th . . . sun still rises very early in late July in QC. It is Eastern Daylight Time as is my home but I’m 10 miles from the Central Time Zone. There was light coming in my window by 5:00 a.m.

My friend had planned day trip for us to Ile d’Orleans, an agricultural/touristy island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River, only about 30 minutes from her home. I got a great view of the Montmorency Falls as we crossed a long bridge over to the island. First stop was at Visitors Center; we learned that road construction would make a visit to Sainte Petronille problematic – a disappointment since my friend said it had the “best old houses” and also good views (and home of local painter, Horatio Walker).

So, then, off on the one coastal road, looking to buy fresh fruit and to pick strawberries. My friend had bought some excellent strawberries in the Sainte Foy market the week before from a particular Ile d’Orleans farm so we made our first stop there. Lovely older couple running the stand; very flattered that my friend had made a point of seeking them out and charmed that she, too, had grown up on a farm. (All this in French . . . I noticed that their English was sufficient to deal with English speaking customers but not really for conversation.) Unfortunately, “pick your own” strawberry season had just ended but they graciously allowed us to go into the fields anyway, pick a few strawberries just to eat and take photos. We bought lots of fruit there – strawberries, raspberries, and a different fruit, comprise, that looked like a funny long blueberry but had its own taste. I was glad they let us taste a couple first; I would have bought a small container but after a taste, grabbed one of the big ones. The comprises came from their son-in-law’s farm elsewhere on the island; it seems to be a “newer” crop. English name for berry is hackap or honeyberry; never seen it before.

We stopped at Parc Maritime de Saint-Laurent, checked out the wooden rowboats, ate a snack at the picnic tables but did not pay admission for entrance into park itself. Then, a long stop at Saint-Jean, a walk along the beach, visit to the church, lunch at a busy “mansion type place” (ate on their porch, pizza), and walk through the town, admiring houses/gardens/flowers and river views. The whole island was shelled and wrecked by the English during their successful 1758 invasion but this village’s church was spared. We walked through the cemetery; by 2 tiny processional chapels (interesting/unusual, island was the only place I saw these). Day was cloudy with the occasional sprinkles of rain but we made it back to the church parking lot relatively dry.

Then a stop at the island’s large lavender farm. We went into their tiny store & never have I smelled such a lovely scent of lavender. I thought of my minuscule suitcase and resisted but rather regret that. We did not walk in the lavender fields . . . they had just started charging ($10 per person) to visit the fields this summer and since my friend had walked there free before and since our day was disappearing, we drove on.

Next stop was at the eastern tip of the island at Saint-Francois – stopped at the stone church & cemetery (lots of stone houses in this small village) and at Parc De La Tour-du-nordet where we climbed the observation tower for a good view of the river, the shore, and other islands.

It was after 3:00 when we made it to the largest village of the island, Saint-Pierre, which had 2 churches side by side, one from the 1700s and one from the mid-1900s, which seemed very symbolic of the island’s character. We had a long stop at Cassis Monna (visiting its diary bar). For a Tuesday afternoon, even in high summer, it was really busy. They were selling all sorts of wines (specialty seemed to be black currant and elderberry products); had a special wine testing going on in one building and then a small sample plantings of all types of currants (black, red, white). Lots of outdoor seating, pleasant scenery, all ages enjoying the place.

A great view again of the Falls coming back over the bridge; back into Quebec City by 5:00, oddly very tired (perhaps still tired from the trip the day before or just from seeing so much).
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Old Aug 24th, 2022, 09:12 AM
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« We bought lots of fruit there – strawberries, raspberries, and a different fruit, comprise, that looked like a funny long blueberry but had its own taste. I was glad they let us taste a couple first; I would have bought a small container but after a taste, grabbed one of the big ones. The comprises came from their son-in-law’s farm elsewhere on the island; it seems to be a “newer” crop. English name for berry is hackap or honeyberry »

Looking forward to reading your trip report- thanks for taking the time to write it!

Aren’t the haskap berries interesting? I tried them for the first time this summer- they are gaining popularity here in Ontario also. Here’s a bit of info/history for others that might be interested (not sure if the link is to the farm you visited or a different farm, but same berries!):
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Old Aug 25th, 2022, 05:52 AM
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Wednesday, July 27th An early start out of Quebec City for a day at Parc national de la Jacques Cartier, north of the city, tickets bought the night before, cost $9.25 per person. Beautiful 45 minute drive, not much traffic (trucks rare). The park itself is in a glacier valley in the Laurentian mountains (old, low mountains). We only got to the southern end of the park and only explored a bit of it in our 6 hours there.

The mountains reminded me a bit of the Smokies; not as high but in some ways they seemed rise more abruptly from the landscape. Definitely more conifers and even more wildflowers than the Smokies. I asked the park rangers about the wildflowers, trying to get an identification of the most common purple ones by the roadside, but they kept insisting that there were no wildflowers so late in the summer. I gathered that there are so many wildflowers in May and June that what’s left by the last of July is totally insignificant to those familiar with the area.

We hiked for a couple of hours on the “Les Cascades” trail near the Visitor Center; biggest difference I noticed up close in the forest was the lack of vines that twist up and down everything in Georgia. There were lots of ferns, some moss, some shrubs with berries and then a lovely, long cascading series of waterfalls.

Lunch time . . . we wanted to eat by the river but the picnic tables as we left the trail were in the full sun, which was strong by late morning. So, we walked by the campground and to a day use river picnic area. Lots of picnic tables; a beautiful view of the river itself with the mountains, which were just a wall of trees, starting steeping right on the river shore.

But, this place did not turn out well for a picnic. My friend had given me bug repellant for “mosquitoes” and I had put it where I thought mosquitoes might attack. I was wearing long pants, short sleeves, socks, hat – I wasn’t expecting to get bitten much. But, I think “mosquitoes” were her generic English word for bugs. We were attacked by a strange little flying insect, similar to a midge. It was irritating but didn’t seem to bite so I tried ignoring them. There were a few biting flies getting at me through my clothes but I could slap them away. We quickly finished lunch and then found a little sandy spot to get ankle deep in the delicious cold water. River had such clear water.

We hurried back to walk another forest trail, L’Apercu, along the Belleau creek, marked as easy and short, right by the Visitors Center. No bugs on this one but it turned out I had blood on both cheeks – those mystery flying bugs had been biting, it just didn’t hurt. (And when I got home that evening, I discovered blood on my shoulders, on my neck & back, they had crawled under my T-shirt and had a feast. Very strange, too, in that the bites stayed obvious for several days but never itched, never bothered me.)

This trail had lots of ups and downs, often with steps (which I find harder than just walking up an incline). I had to rest a lot; my friend lost confidence in my hiking ability at this point and some of our week plans changed because of it. L

We had tentatively planned to try one of the bog trails in the park but our bug experience at the river made us switch to ending the day with another forest trail, La Mesage, near the park entrance. It started with a beautiful view of the turbulent Cachee River that one crosses on a footbridge; then forest with lots of ferns and even a few mushrooms (which seem rare in Canadian forests).

There is a lot more to do at this park but most of the trails seem very up and down. Canoe rentals would be another way to see it. This was perhaps my favorite place in Quebec; I wish I had been in better shape and had put on more bug repellant!

Thursday, August 25th My visit to Quebec City accidentally collided with Pope Francis’s visit . . . we had been trying to avoid the places he would be but today thought we could explore parts of the old city. I was excited. Again, being with a city resident was so nice because she knew exactly where to find free all day street parking. Within a couple of blocks, we were on the St. Charles River trail, walking past a beautiful park dedicated to South America (with appropriate statues and flowers), by the beautiful old train station and through one of Quebec City’s many public art installations, a collection of 40 shiny stainless steel chairs set out in pairs along the sidewalk, each inscribed with a poetry passage from a Quebec authors from various time periods. Then by a community urban vegetable garden, the marina, the “swimming area” in the marina, and views both of the river and of Laval University & the Chateau Frontenac up on the Hill. We started climbing steps then; reached the Lower Town. Here we stopped in shops for a few minutes and just wandered the streets. Interesting to see the original settlement and the original shoreline marked – St. Lawrence River has receded quite a lot.

It seems the Pope’s visit had actually cut down on the number of tourists – lots of roads were blocked for vehicular traffic. We were going to visit the Notre Dame des Victories but it was closed so we continued on, admired the huge mural nearby that told the life of the city through both the seasons and through history. It was the best and largest of many lovely murals in the city.

It was our hottest and sunniest day of the week in Quebec City so we decided to have an early lunch, in the shade somewhere. Still being cautious about covid, we bought sandwiches at the Musee de la Civilization Museum and then went up on their rooftop to have a very comfortable and quiet lunch with a great view.

We were a bit at loose ends, waiting for our English language 3:00 tour of the Morrin Center, so decided to walk up to Parc Montmorency, across the street from the Notre Dame de Quebec cathedral l where the Pope had spoken that morning. There we noticed a clump of people pressed against the barricades at a corner of the park, also people all along the street barricades. Lots and lots of security, soon a helicopter hovering overhead, a motorcade of police soon zipped by. And then . . . in a tiny white car, in his white robes, there was Pope, waving, as he was driven into the basement doors of an annex to the cathedral. Never, when planning this trip, had I expected to see the Pope. Later heard that authorities were surprised by the small size of the crowds but it was a hot day and it seemed many Quebecers were very ambivalent about the Pope’s visit.

After that excitement, we continued along the walls, stopped in at the Augustine monastery (my friend had frequently visited their beautiful small garden but it had new signs up, reserving that space for staff only). We found a bench though nearby and just people watched; lots of activity, obviously still related to the Pope’s visit. It was nice walking the sidewalks and the city wall that was along the street; only an occasional police motorcycle going by. Great views from the city wall.

We also visited the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, constructed around 1800 and now undergoing lots of renovations, particularly of the grounds. It is the first Anglican cathedral built outside of Britain. There was an entrance charge but we were just waved through; it was a chaotic day, I think, for everyone.

The old residential streets had lovely stone houses and buildings, little alcoves with pots of bright flowers, reminiscent of European cities.

I was worried when I realized the Morrin Center, the English cultural center and library, was not air conditioned; I was already hot and sweaty from the day. But, it was noticeably cooler in the building, not bad at all. The tour was scheduled to be an hour but our guide was kind, answering lots of questions so we were there for almost 2 hours.

My previous knowledge of Morrin Center came from Louise Penny’s Gamache mystery, Bury Your Dead. The building started out first as the Royal Redoubt, then as the city jail until 1867 (and the site of public hangings), then as a tiny English language university branch of McGill until 1900, and now is library and home of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec. Jail exhibits were fascinating and sobering; I especially enjoyed visiting one of the rooms set up as a college science classroom from the late 1800s and of course, the library stuffed full of books, with wooden bookcases built into the 2 stories of walls was lovely.

I was disappointed that Quebec City’s main public library, right next to the Morrin Center, was closed for renovations – it is in an old converted church and my friend assured me it too was beautiful. Walk back to car; home to plan for the next day.

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Old Aug 30th, 2022, 07:05 AM
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Friday, August 26

Original plan for today had been hiking but since all hikes near Quebec City seemed to involve more elevation climbs than I was up for, we went for a 2 hour walk on the Samuel de Champlain Walk along the ST. Lawrence River Path instead. This was a paved trail for walkers, runners and bikers that followed the river; it was a great trail for people watching and just enjoying a beautiful, refreshing morning. There were bathrooms, lots of public art, benches, sprinklers for children, and a tower to climb to get a better view of the islands in the river and of the Old Town itself. One continual surprise to me though was the lack of birds compared to home; not really sure of the cause.

Then, we visited a beautiful, large public library in Sainte Foy, the Bibliotecque Monique. It was in a renovated former modern church; full of light and open spaces, 3 floors, lots of art, and wonderful children’s area. Even though it was in an urban area, there were lovely views of grass & trees on one side of the library. Very interesting how much Quebecers value, support and use their public spaces and institutions.

Our original planned picnic spot didn’t work out; it was next door to a busy mosque (and time was noon on Friday, no parking anywhere nearby). So we headed to another spot on the St. Charles River, a park that was along that river trail. There was a small outdoor yoga class going on nearby, a couple of folks fishing in the river and plenty of walkers, bikers and elderly folks on scooters out on the trail so both beautiful scenery and people watching possible here. After lunch, we walked less than a half mile to the falls and the site of an old water mill – so amazing to me that it is in a developed suburban area but is a noisy, spectacular falls that gives you the feeling of being out in nature.

We were back at my friend’s house by 2:30 where she caught up on grass cutting and laundry while I walked on my own in the local neighborhood (and rested). I also picked snow peas and little tomatoes from her backyard garden. After supper, we drove maybe a mile to another part of the St. Charles River trail, near the waterworks. This had flat, calm water and there was a canoe/kayak/paddleboard rental place doing good business. Very few walkers on the trail here but good to see mostly young folks out on the river itself. A beautiful, calm, cool evening with a light breeze.

Saturday, August 27

Left house at 8 a.m. for a day in Old Quebec. On weekends, there is more free all day street parking available; we parked in a neighborhood of beautiful, large old houses that fronted onto the Plains of Abraham Battlefield Park and had only a short walk to reach the park itself. Lots of interpretative signs explaining the battle (thankfully in both French and English); wording was interesting, always battle led to the “British Conquest”.

One section of the park had tree plantings from all over Canada with identification plaques so finally I could be sure of the different types of spruces, pines, larches, firs, etc, that I had been seeing for days.

We visited the Museum of the Citadel for bathrooms and a brief glance at their gift shop but didn’t want to spend the time inside to justify the steep admission price. We walked on, looking at the walls and fortifications and lots of cannons (it is a military park and it seems Canada has brought cannons back from every war it participated in and stuck them on the Plains of Abraham). My friend knew a rather obscure gate to a tunnel that went through the fortifications; that’s when the realization of how extensive they were really sank in. We waited out a quick rain shower in a tent left over from the Pope’s visit and then headed down into the park that has an obelisk dedicated to General Wolfe on one side and General Montcalm on the other.

Toured the Cathedral next; enjoyed the little museum dedicated to the life and tomb of its first Bishop, Francois de Laval (who was a wonderful character in Shadows on the Rock, a novel by Willa Cather) Museum had a 15 minute multimedia projection about his life & the early conversion of the First Nations people.

Then, quick purchase of sandwiches, with a lunch outside on the park benches, near the Wolfe/Montcalm monument with a view of the harbor promenade and the Chateau Frontenac.

walked back through a lovely garden with a statue of Joan of Arc (given in memory of the “heroic French defenders of 1759/60”). And now we were on to the Quebec Art Museum. Unfortunately, the old jail building part was closed for some reason. But, the main part of the art museum was in a gorgeous building, with a curving staircase and lots of light and space. The building itself, which even had a green roof with a good view, was more spectacular than the collection itself.

I enjoyed the exhibition that chronologically carried one through the history of Quebec (although there were more portraits than I expected, I preferred the landscapes). I skimmed quickly through the exhibition book which talked about interpreting history through art. I did not buy a ticket for the special traveling exhibition of post-WWII American art, thankfully, since I was too tired to even do more than a quick peek into the native art gallery. Outdoor sculpture garden was very good; I don’t normally appreciate outdoor sculpture but the pieces here were very striking and somehow “fit” their environment.

Sunday, July 31st

Last day in Quebec City. We were able to get very good free street parking, closer, on weekend morning so made it up to the Old Town quickly this time. We visited the Quebec tourist office for maps & information on Montreal (this would have been a great first stop for Quebec City also if I had not had my own guide). Stopped to go in the Notre Dame of Many Victories, interesting to see how the church morphed over the years (serving an Irish congregation at one point) and how the Church resisted tearing it down even though it occupies prime space. We walked back around to Montmorency Park also and took photos of the cathedral door that the Pope was driven through. Very different feeling for the area without all the security and fencing it had on the Thursday of the visit itself.

Then we headed to the Musee de la Civilization; first to spend an hour and a half going through their excellent First Nations exhibit. They had examples of clothing made from seal/deer/moose hides that one could touch; examples of “sun glasses” made from bone that the Inuit had used when hunting on ice. The exhibit traced both the history of the First Nations peoples in Quebec and also their modern life. The soapstone sculptures exhibited were wonderful but I appreciated the explanation that Inuits only started carving the larger ones for the tourist trade; before that, they made amulets that could easily be carried. Also interesting to learn more about the Westlake Herons and their long houses; their existing community is only a mile from my friend’s house.

Lunch was carrot soup and a sandwich, eaten in the shade on museum roof, and then back down for an 1 ¼ hour English language guided tour of the “History of Quebec” exhibit that started with Cartier’s voyages and ended with the 1995 Quebec vote on separation. Very nice to have someone doing the storytelling as we walked through the displays. Perhaps most surprising to me was the lack of involvement that Quebec had in WWII (they were the only Canadian province that voted overwhelming against a draft in 1943); this really underscored to me their feelings of disassociation at that time with Europe and the rest of Canada. The 1976 Montreal Olympics were fun to learn more about (and to compare to Atlanta’s 1996 Olympic experience.) Very good exhibit but museums are tiring; we headed back to the car by 3:00.

Afternoon and evening were packing for an early, early departure the next day for Montreal and a final walk down to the St. Charles River. This time we detoured along the edge of the Westlake Heron village and read some of the information displays. Beautiful evening to end my week in Quebec City. Tomorrow, Montreal!

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Old Aug 31st, 2022, 08:52 AM
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Great report. Loved our trip to both cities in 2019. Looking forward to your thoughts on Montréal.
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Old Sep 1st, 2022, 05:52 AM
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Thanks! I hope to have Montreal stories ready soon. Did not have nearly enough time in Montreal but enjoyed every moment.
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Old Sep 2nd, 2022, 06:09 AM
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Monday, August 1st

To Montreal! Up at 5:00 a.m. (light already coming in the window); at 6:15, we locked the house and walked a few blocks to a city bus stop, dragging suitcases, and then a straight trip to a bus stop only a block from the Sainte Foy Orleans Express bus station where I had arrived a week ago. We were early, for our 8 a.m. bus departure, so visited the big produce market that was just getting started that was next door to the bus station. Beautiful produce filled stalls marked for individual farms – we had packed an early lunch to eat on the bus so not really able to buy anything but it all looked great.

My arrival had been on an express bus with no stops between Montreal and QC but this time it would be a longer trip, with 3 stops, along the north (I think) shore of the St. Lawrence. The Trois Rivieres stop was the only interesting one – the bus station in this city was near its beautiful cathedral and (maybe proof that bus is respectable in Canada) next to a nice hotel. Again, interesting to see flat farmland as we got closer to Montreal.

From Montreal central bus station, the subway was only a block away and then from Saint Laurent stop our hotel was about 2 ½ blocks. (Buying our subway tickets rather complicated, we bought a one day ticket to get us to hotel; then a 3 day ticket that included a bus to the airport from a subway stop). Luckily there was a kind English speaking young man helping people buy tickets at the kiosk.

Our McGill University dorm hotel was very inconspicuous but we were next door to the Hilton Garden Inn so always had a busy landmark to make sure we didn’t miss it. Even though we were there at noon, we were able to check in – and were very pleased with our spacious 24th floor room which had a great view of Mont Royal, McGill University and the city itself. (Hotel had 25 floors so we were almost at the top.) We took the desk chairs and set up a kind of table right by the windows; this would be our view for meals that we had in the room or just for relaxing time. Room had small refrigerator and Keurig.

It was the hottest day of my 11 days in Quebec (87 for a high) so perhaps not the best afternoon to be spending outside but there was rain in forecast for coming days and after sitting in the bus for hours, we were ready for activity. So – the climb up to Mont Royal Park began.

We headed through McGill University’s beautiful campus (brief stop at their library but it was a disappointing 1960s building); then headed up the seriously uphill trail to the park. It was shaded and there were frequent benches (where I had to take breaks). We avoided the stairs and did the more gradual round about approach; then came out suddenly to the large and crowded pavilion and panoramic views of the city and St. Lawrence River with its bridges below.

Again, very hot in the full sun on the paved pavilion so with relief we headed up to the open air building, (Mount Royal Chalet?) We enjoyed shade, rest, a talk with a park staff member, and looking around at all the large scale paintings that told the story of Montreal. The ice cream stands and gift shop were doing a great business; this was a hustling place, quite the startling change from the forest trail that we had been on to reach it.

The Park itself is huge, begun in 1870s, designed by Frederick Olmstead. We were only in a small part of it that was close to McGill campus. What a wonderful green space for the city of Montreal!

We walked back down a long series of stairs to get back to an old residential area bordering the campus (great fun to look at the houses) and walked by more University buildings, including the Allan Institute (a research psychiatric hospital). This was a memorable old enormous mansion, that seemed closed – immediately after returning home, I read the latest Louise Penny Gamache novel and the Allan Institute plays a pivotal role in that mystery so a fun connection.

Once back on a main street, we headed into a little shopping area in a subway station that had a grocery store and small restaurants. We bought breakfast and snack foods and produce; then I got a delicious gyro at one counter and my friend got Chinese dumplings at another place. We had a relaxing early supper, admiring the Mount Royal view from our 24th floor McGill room window.
We headed out again about 7:15, walking a slightly different area of the campus so as to wind up at a large open area for the start of a free outdoor concert by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. We got there early enough to hear a young group of student percussionists performing nearby; then enjoyed just wandering around since the streets were closed to vehicular traffic. Concert was set up with big screens so one could watch the orchestra close up. It was interesting just to hear the introduction for the event; done in fluent and rapid French and then English by an Anglophone TV personality. There was a huge crowd (who came prepared with chairs or blankets); as tourists, we had neither so after about 20 minutes, we headed back to our room. Lovely, cool breeze and once back in the room, we could see the lights from the concert on campus. A wonderful view of the city as night fell.
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Old Sep 9th, 2022, 05:28 AM
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Okay, folks, finally finishing this up:

Tuesday, August 2nd

Woke up early to rain and completely gray skies. Today we were going to the Botanical Gardens but did not get our usual early start. We tried; going down about 8:15 but the rain discouraged us. We tried again at 8:45 and with just had sprinkles on the short walk to the subway. By the time we came out, the rain had stopped and we regretted not starting earlier.

Got an excellent view of Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on the short walk to the Jardin Botanique. It would be mostly cloudy for the entire day, humid and by afternoon, pretty warm especially when the sun broke through. Our first stop was at the Chinese gardens; a gift to Montreal from the city of Singapore dating back to 1990. There were interesting displays inside the pavilions about lives on typical farms in different geographic areas of China. The garden and architecture were lovely, with lots of water features, but I felt like I was missing a lot, not understanding the significance of the specific designs and plantings.

We hurried over to the Japanese garden to be on time for a condensed (15 minute?) explanation of the Japanese tea garden, which was very helpful. There’s also a stroll garden and a dry garden and wonderful bonsai courtyard (bonsai also in Chinese gardens). I’ve never been a fan of bonsai but this was different; there were familiar trees (such as the gingko) and shrubs growing in large pots and there was enough of an explanation that I could understand more about the creation and the pleasure one could get from bonsai. Also nice displays in the Japanese pavilion.

We walked through the Alpine Garden on the way back to the entrance area to the cafeteria. Lots of food options; I had a (vegan) “meat” and vegetables, we ate outside, in the shade and people and butterfly watched during meal. Lots of Montrealers seem to visit the garden; walking, running, with baby strollers, etc.

Afterwards we visited the vegetable gardens (very interesting for me to see lettuces and cabbages growing in August). My first time to see “new” ancient grain plants such as quinoa, amaranth, and chia. We walked more, through a forest area, to a small lake (with lily pads, not a novelty to me at all). There was still more of the gardens to explore but we were tired; we caught the tram for a ride back to the entrance area, with the greenhouses.

Lots to see – I was really surprised at what an excellent section of large cacti and succulents they had in their “desert” greenhouse. Lots of blooms and good smells in the other sections.

It was almost 4 when we left the gardens – would be worth another visit, more “guided tours” would have given me more context, too. The Biodome and biosphere both were on my list to visit but not enough time.

After a rest, we had supper (outside) at a small Lebanese restaurant on a nearby street. Now, we were really seeing the life on the street and realizing that Montreal has a substantial homeless population. My Quebec friend had not been to Montreal since start of covid; she was saddened to see some closed shops and more litter on the streets than before.

Wednesday, August 3rd

Beautiful blue sky day, low 60s as we headed to the subway a little after 8:00 for trip down to “old Montreal”. We checked to see exactly where our evening entertainment (Cirque du Solil!) would be, then just walked around the streets & waterfront, enjoying the breeze, views and the empty plazas. (They would not be empty later in the day or for the evening!).

We were in line to be first visitors to the Pointe-a-Calliere, Montreal Archaeology and History Complex. This was large museum; interesting for building itself as well as for the special exhibit (Vikings, a huge and popular exhibit on loan from the National Museum of Denmark) and for their permanent exhibits on the history of Montreal itself. Unfortunately, the English language guided tours were in mid-afternoon; the museum folks also warned us that tours would be cancelled if the exhibit areas were too crowded, which was happening frequently. But, signage was good & I enjoyed this museum – after the Viking exhibit, we took a break, walked back to the waterfront area for lunch (a very tasty smoked meat sandwich from a food truck) and ate in the park, with a light breeze and perfect 73 degree temperature and a view of the Saint Lawrence River. Not a typical August temperature for me.

My Canadian friend thought the day too fine to return to the museum (which she had visited in the past) so I left her to wander the waterfront while I returned. The museum has an excellent exhibit of uncovered ruins from the earliest settlement days and a huge underground (once underwater) sewer pipe that you walk through. History from earliest trading post days until recent times is covered by the exhibits.

I found Quebec museum prices steep; even with the small senior citizen discount, my ticket was $24. Maybe prices have gone up at all museums since covid; this was really my first post-covid trip.

After museum, we watched a flint firing demo in the plaza by properly blue and white uniformed French royal soldiers; then walked up to admire the outside of the Notre Dame basilica (under construction, of course). We stopped again at a grocery store for next day’s breakfast & traveling snacks, returned to our hotel room to rest, eat a light supper, and then back on the subway for final evening.

We again walked the waterfront, which was now very crowded with people but still a delightful temperature, before entering the Cirque du Soleil tent for the 8:00 performance of “Kooza”. This was my first Cirque du Soleil show. Ours were almost the cheapest seats but had excellent view of the entire stage; there were strong fans blowing so a feel of lots of air circulating, very comfortable inside the tent. And the show was exciting, visually beautiful, a great way to end the trip. There was a big waterfront fireworks show ending as we exited; a perfect last look back at the St. Lawrence River and old Montreal. No problems making it back to the hotel; it felt safe in the subway and for the 3 blocks we had to walk to the hotel.

Thursday, August 4th

Another beautiful day. I had time for breakfast and a quick neighborhood walk before wheeling suitcase down to the subway, saying goodbye to my friend as she headed to the art museum and then would take the afternoon bus home to Quebec City. She had gone over the instructions for getting off at the Lionel station, turning right as I came out the subway station and finding the bus stop, right by a church, for the airport shuttle. There were lots of folks already waiting when I got there, with luggage, so I felt confident I was in the right place. And again, my subway pass got me on the bus, after only 20-30 minutes, I was back at Trudeau International Airport.

I headed in looking for the international area but it turned out that they have a separate area, just for travelers heading to the United States, and I went through customs there, in Montreal. I wasn’t expecting that; I had fruit with me, for my lunch right before boarding the airplane, but luckily customs was very easy and very fast, no questions about such things. Security fast, too, and I was way too early for my 1:30 flight. Montreal airport was very pleasant; there was a small children’s play area and even some exercise bikes in the far corner of the airport where Delta flights were located (this is different, too, from Atlanta, where Delta is up front and center).

It was a full flight and we left Montreal wearing our required masks and with a masked flight staff. Since I landed on the domestic side of the Atlanta airport and had no customs to go through, I was an hour early for my Groome shuttle home – unfortunately, there was no space for me on the early shuttle so I had to wait on the one that matched my reservation. Next time I’ll remember that it is actually a “domestic return” and schedule accordingly.

Wonderful trip. I especially want to return to Montreal; my list of things to do was long and barely touched it seemed. Hotel location and space excellent; neighborhood good for shopping/meals, subway very convenient.

I think doing some kind of “walking tour” of old Montreal would be useful to get an orientation of the area.

Really enjoyed learning a bit about Canadian history beforehand through books – I re-read Louise Penny’s novel set in Quebec City, Bury Your Dead, then an excellent biography of Samuel de Champlain by David Hatchet Fischer, the historical novel Between Two Shores (set during the 1750s and 1760s)by Jocelyn Green, and Shadow on the Rock by Willa Cather, set in the 1600s in Quebec City. Also I greatly enjoyed The Home for Unwanted Girls and The Forgotten Daughter, set in 1960s and 1990s in Montreal, by Joanna Goodman, which gave me some understanding of 20th century Quebec.
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Old Sep 9th, 2022, 06:54 AM
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Thanks for your detailed trip report. My older son went to McGill for his undergraduate degree. I was interested to hear your experience staying at the dorm.
We hope to get back to Montreal soon. We love the city.
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Old Sep 10th, 2022, 04:52 AM
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McGill is beautiful university; we were in a graduate dorm, very nice, very clean,very quiet, front desk staffed 24 hours. I would stay there again. Unfortunately for tourists, they only have a narrow window in the summer when the rooms are available.
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