Saturday, February 15, 2020

Autumn in Canada #16

Autumn in Canada
Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Long Beach, CA

 Still suffering from raging head and chest colds, we dragged ourselves down to breakfast. All morning we had a feeling things were not going to go smoothly. Bill had scheduled Uber to pick us up between 9:30 and 9:40 and deliver us to Trudeau Airport.  Our Delta flight to Detroit was at 12:30 then a three-hour layover and connection to LAX. The hotel lobby is large and comfortable so, we waited on some sofas until Bill got the text that our car would be there.

 Janet stuck her nose out the door, it was cold, misty and very windy. Just what we needed with head and chest colds!

 Jonathan was our driver and he called to ask if we were okay. Bill said “Sure. We’re waiting in front of the hotel for you.” He replied that he was at the indoor pickup point…”What indoor pickup point?” After a pause, he said, “I’ll come outside and get you.” The black Audi M5 arrived and Jonathan loaded up our bags.  He was very talkative, just what we needed with plugged ears and sore throats. He was Montreal native who used to work for Air Canada and really...really wanted to move his family to California.

 Traffic was slow going, but we got to the airport in plenty of time. Trudeau airport is a far cry from what we had at LAX.  We schlepped our bags to the bag check-in point, then hoisted them onto the scales while feeling like crap.  Security was a mess with long lines. None of the TSA rules applied since we weren’t in the United States. Off with the shoes, belt, laptops, etc., then to US Customs. All of the American Immigration personnel were abrupt and downright rude. We’ve decided on two things. 1. No more Delta and 2. We are contacting our travel agent!  But wait, there’s more… our aircraft to Detroit was small and our “Business Class” seats were against the front bulkhead where we could not stretch our legs.

We landed in Detroit and tried to find our departure gate. No one seemed to be helpful in directing us to the proper gate.  Then we tried to find the Delta SkyClub where we could relax like in LA. Remember we were sick as dogs. We got to the entrance desk and the Delta person said, you aren’t eligible to use the Lounge. Bill said “What?” We have business class tickets. She told us only if it was an international flight or if you have a Delta Platinum American Express card. We told her we flew in from Montreal and were going to LAX. She told us that because the particular flight was considered a “transborder” flight and not international we were not admitted. Bill was a bit steamed. He talked with another Delta employee who told us the rules changed a while ago. As a result, we hiked about ¾ mile under a tunnel to the other terminal where our gate A68 was at the far end. (This day was getting worse and worse.) Starving, we found a Mediterranean restaurant in the airport and spent almost $40 for lunch! 

 At least, Bill thought, this will be a bigger plane and we’ll have nice seats…WRONG. The seats on the 757 were almost identical to the small jet. At least we could get our toes under the bulkhead.  There were a lot of people coughing and sneezing – Bill turned to Janet "We’re gonna die when we get home".  Janet thought we were just as sick as everyone else on the plane.

 Landing at LAX, both of us taking bets what next will go wrong! But we were glad to be back in So Cal where it was warm. The next trial was to see if our baggage got here from Montreal without getting lost in Detroit. Even though all the baggage from our flight ended up on the wrong carousel from what was posted, our bags were there! Miracle of miracles!  Janet was relieved when Bill showed up rolling the two large bags behind him.  Things were looking up. Next, we called for an Uber to take us and our bags home. We had to go upstairs to departures and meet the car at the sign marked “C". Another miracle, our car showed up exactly where and when it was supposed to. Maximo was our driver in a brand-new 2019 Toyota Camry hybrid sedan. The ride home was smooth and uneventful.
 We arrived home to find everything was fine. Happy to be home, bushed and sick.  We popped over to In N’ Out for a couple of hamburgers, before turning in.

All in all…a great vacation.  We even got some ideas for our next book series!

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Autumn in Canada #15 Montreal

Autumn in Canada
Monday, October 14, 2019
Montreal, Canada

We discovered that it was going to rain all day today, our last day in Montreal. So we spent time yesterday getting food so we can stay in the hotel all day while packing for our trip home tomorrow.

When we woke up this morning Bill had a head cold, Janet was hurting all over and both had headaches. So glad we are staying in today.

After breakfast, we counted our Canadian dollars and cents. We decided to try and use the 3,00 ($3.00) at Starbucks for hot chocolate. The goal is to use up all the coins.

          We spent the day sleeping, eating, and reading-just plain relaxing. We did have marathon HGTV with a program called “You live in what?” It ran all day until 9:00pm. Actually, it was fun to watch while we were awake.
We watched the sunset out the north-facing window, then the twinkling lights of the city. It was just beautiful!
We spent the evening packing and getting the paperwork ready for our flight. We really liked this room, just like our Boston hotel room. However, this room has a magnificent view.

We have a  tradition of buying ornaments for our Christmas tree where ever we travel. Since it is hard to find ornaments in the summertime, we often buy key chains and remove the ring. When we get home, we tie on a ribbon and write the year on the back.  Decorating the tree is always a waltz down memory lane for us.
Here are the key chains/ornaments we bought on this trip:

Friday, January 31, 2020

Autumn in Canada #14 Montreal

Autumn in Canada
Sunday, October 13, 2019
Montreal, Canada

          After yesterday’s city tour and hike up to the Chalet du Montagne, at Mount Royale, we were achy and sore. We had breakfast at Bistro le Boulevard in the hotel. This was rather fancy, great table service, but no buffet. The food was very nice the menu very French too.

          Bill had found a supermarket only a couple of blocks away called “Provigo”. We walked about 3 blocks and took an escalator up to another escalator to reach the supermarket or “Gran Marché”. It was quite a gourmet market but at reasonable prices. They featured at least a dozen different types of pâté, a fantastic seafood section, very swanky meat section, and all the familiar brands. Janet was even able to get a loaf of gluten-free bread. We collected some fresh pineapple chunks, red pears, the aforementioned pâté and some small bottles of spring water. This way we could have a picnic lunch at the Chalet de Montagne on Mount Royale during our second hop-on/hop-off tour today. 

          When we arrived at the tourist info center to catch our vintage double-decker London bus, there was already a line of people. Bill sat up top in the open air while Janet stayed in the warmer downstairs. Most of the trip was a repeat of yesterday, but the sky was clear, and the colors seemed to have gotten more intense after last night’s light rain. At the stop before ours at the Park Royale, Bill went back downstairs with Janet.

          We went through the various parts of Montreal some with lovely homes and large parks with lovely landscaping

           Because today was Sunday and the day before Canada’s Thanksgiving Day, the traffic and crowds were particularly heavy. We headed straight for the Chalet for lunch. We wanted to eat on the steps of the Belvedere (a broad horseshoe-shaped plaza outside the Chalet), overlooking the city of Montreal from 734 ft elevation (more than five times as high as Signal Hill back home which is only 148 ft above sea level). It was way too cold so sat on a bench inside the Chalet. We then browsed through the gift shop. We headed back to where we caught the trolley. With the horrendous traffic coming up the mountain, we knew the bus would be late. Two trolleys came by but were full. As a result eight of us spent almost two-hours waiting to get a bus back downtown. It was getting colder by the half-hour!

          We got back to the tourist center at 5:00pm exhausted. We plopped onto a couple of chairs inside before heading back. We walked through Dorchester Park and were treated to a serenade by a carillon or chimes from who-knows-where, of Strauss waltzes. It was a beautiful way to end our day’s adventures.

          To warm-up we stopped at the lobby and had hot chocolate and watched the city locals walk by in various forms of cold-weather wear.

          A swim and soak in the whirlpool tub were in order. We found we had the whole pool and whirlpool to ourselves. so very peaceful. We spent the rest of the evening watching HGTV and looked out at the amazing night scene out our tenth-floor window.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Autumn in Canada #13 Montreal

Autumn in Canada
Sunday, October 12, 2019
Montreal, Canada

We had breakfast at 8:00 finished packing and went to the library to wait for our call to disembark. Both of us feverishly finished reading our book before we were called, and managed to do just that!

Uber came and took us to the Sheraton Hotel-le Centre in the heart of Montréal. It was 10:00am, we registered but was too early to move our things in. We had to store our luggage with the bellman and come back at 4:00pm.

We spoke to the Concierge and he gave us several options for live performances, but they were too far to walk at night. And the tickets plus Uber in both directions were way out of our budget. Shame too, we would have loved to see some of them.

We stored our luggage at the hotel and went for a walk downtown. We found out that Monday, October 13 is Thanksgiving (Canadian) so we decided to do the 2-day Hop-on, Hop-off today and tomorrow for fear most things would be closed.

Since it was a two-hour loop from start to finish, we got off at China Town for lunch at 12:00. Very good food!!

We got back on the trolley for the rest of the hour tour. We got off at Mont-Royale. The colors of the trees were magnificent! Brilliant red, shining gold and shimmering yellow leaves sat side by side interspersed with dark green pines.  The trees had low canopies so we were surrounded with brilliant colors overhead and along the ground, like a blanket of mixed colors. We took pictures and walked along the path to the end and looked out the Look Out at the skyscrapers with a bed of colors below. It was breathtaking!

We made it to the hotel, exhausted and our back and legs hurting. Finally got to our room it was lovely!

We checked out the pools, terrace and headed for a Lebanese restaurant for dinner. We brought our food back to the hotel and ate on the lovely terrace. Just before we finished it began to sprinkle.
After a very short debate, we headed to the pool and hot tub. The pool was a nice size and we got some nice laps in. The hot tub was large and hot! The short swim helped both our backs and the hot tub made us feel great.

Before we went to sleep we opened the curtains and were stunned by the view. Since we are downtown, the tall skyscrapers around us turned into a light show at night. We looked at the scene before us and were mesmerized by the lights and colors. We couldn’t see the moon (facing north) but it was supposed to be a full moon.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Autumn in Canada #12

Autumn in Canada
Friday, October 11, 2019
Quebec, Canada

          Well, this is the last full day of our cruise, we have an excursion planned for 2:30 this afternoon.
          Breakfast was in the Rotterdam Dining Room with a large table with visiting people from Kansas. After breakfast, reality came when we found a large envelope by our door with “Disembarkation Instructions” printed on it.

          The sun was shining and it was still early so we decided to stroll around the city of Quebec. The announcement came over the ship’s PA system saying it was a warmer day than expected with a gentle breeze, BUT Bill looked out the window and saw the flags flying stiffly in the wind…and when we got to the gangway, it was freezing!

          We walked down Rue Dalhousie to Corte de la Montagne then to du Sault au Matelot. We saw the most amazing painted wall of a town scene from the 1700s. It was in a small courtyard with a French gentleman playing a keyboard of romantic French music. We sat on the bench and listened and were amazed at the large mural. Then he played La Vie a Rose. Everyone in the courtyard taking pictures stopped and watched the musician. It was lovely.

          We continued down du Sault au Matelot and found a snow globe trying to blow fake snow around a bust of someone (there was no plaque for a name.) We continued noticing how beautifully the town decorated for harvest time, i.e., pumpkins, straw, dried stalks, flowers. It was amazing!

We found the Flenicularie, a small car that went up the steep stairs to the top of the hill. We decided to pay 3,50C ($3.50 Canadian dollars. When we reached the top there was a boardwalk that wrapped around the entire hill.

The view from the Terrasse Dufferine was amazing! We could see across the St Lawrence River to the city of Levy. The city was dotted with steeples and a few high rises surrounded with trees turning colors. It was an amazing view. A woman was singing Opera in French accompanied by pre-recorded music. We met up with the two ladies from Utah and we all decided to explore the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac.

They began building it in the late 1700s and finished building to its current size in the mid-1800s. It was huge, had spires, and was shaped in a capital E. Lobby reminded me of some of the French palaces we saw when we were in Paris. We decided to take the Fenicularie back down and walked through old down with narrow cobblestone streets, old restored building shops, and tall trees.
          We made it back to the ship at 11:30, frozen to the bone and hungry. We ate poolside at the Drive-In. A sandwich place and a taco bar.  We ate poolside

          The call came at 1:45 for our 2:30 UNESCO Historic tour of Quebec City. While waiting for the tour bus, Janet struck up a conversation with two local ladies. They were sitting on a park bench watching the ships go by. Janet mistook them for guests on the ship. One of them spoke broken English, the other no English at all. Bill joined them and we had a nice conversation using a few French words, a few English words, and some hand signs. When the tour bus arrived we hugged the ladies, they kissed Janet on both cheeks.  When we stood to leave, Bill shook hands with them and said "Enchanté" (Nice to meet you).  He really charmed them!

          As we waited for our tour bus with the rest of the group, the two ladies came up to Janet one last time and wished us "Bon Voyage" and blew Janet a kiss. They were very sweet ladies.

          As we stood on line to enter the bus, it was the wrong bus and the company had to send a second bus. So our tour was delayed for 20 minutes. The new bus was much nice and very comfortable. Our tour guide was Roger Napier, a local in Quebec. He spoke excellent English and took us beyond Quebec city limits. However, first, they stopped and let us out downtown to the north of where we were earlier. We stopped at the Information Center on Rue de Buade and Rue Du Fort. The people were very helpful in giving us information about Montreal. We only had 20 minutes and walked down Saint Anne and turned down a small cobblestone street du Tresor. There was an art show of local artists, beautiful watercolors, acrylics, etchings, oil and pencil drawings, really nice stuff, and expensive. We happened across a hidden outdoor restaurant with a courtyard a fire pit. We were running out of time so headed back down Rue de Fort. A French gentleman in a light blue suit and hat was singing what appeared to be French folks songs. Locals were crowded around him, dancing, clapping their hands and singing along in French. It was a very sweet scene.

          Since our tour was delayed we were now stuck in rush hour traffic. We drove around the Plains of Abraham, a battlefield site of a battle between the French and the British in 1759 where the British defeated the French. Across the fields were the Parliament building for the province of Quebec and a statue of Joan d’Arc. Much happened in this small area. The first Catholic diocese in New France was established here and extended from Quebec all the way to Louisiana until the Louisiana purchase by the US in 1803 for 13 million dollars. Now the French regret selling!

          Our guide went on about hockey teams and other trivia to kill time while we were stuck in traffic. We finally arrived back at the ship just as the Queen Mary 2, docked in front of us, was leaving port.  After the half dozen tour members with wheelchairs, motorized scooters, and canes got off the bus, we hightailed it to our cabin to wash up and change for our dinner.
10 Restaurant

          Our reservations at the Caneletto Italian Restaurant were courtesy of the AAA which arranged our trip. It was strict semi formal dress restaurant. After touring all ay, we were lucky to look as good as we did! We both had the seafood Italian wedding soup, and lamb chops which were all delicious.
11 Packing

          Back in our cabin, we got down to the business of packing for disembarking in the morning. Our dismemberment time is 9:30 AM, but we will be able to have breakfast beforehand. Bill will contacted Uber and arranged transportation to the Le Centre Sheraton Hotel in Montreal. We hope they will let us check in early, otherwise we’ll have to have them store our bags until check-in time. We always hate this part of a cruise, because we’ve become very comfortable with our cabin and the ship.  Plus we have to put our bags out in the hallway before midnight for pickup at the dock in the morning. We were exhausted and fell asleep immediately.