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.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Autumn in Canada #11

Autumn in Canada


Thursday, October 10, 2019
At Day at Sea

We started our day with a walk around the outside of the ship than an early breakfast at 8:00am...cold and windy.

We ate breakfast at the buffet then headed to the library to write and Bill read his book.

The library was full of people so Janet sat at the Observation Room and wrote, what a wonderful way to write and scenic! Quite a few people we met in the last few days stopped by to say Hi when they saw us.
          We were invited to the Mariner’s Lunch at noon in the main dining room. The dress was “smart casual.” It was for seasoned guests who have sailed on Holland America Cruise Lines before. (We sailed only once before with this cruise line.) We had a nice lunch and got free ceramic coasters of vintage Holland America Lines.

          As soon as lunch ended, we headed for the pools. We swam in the small pool and soaked in the hot tub. Hungry, we stopped at the Dive In and sandwich place by the pool area and snacked. Made it to our cabin and showered.

          We dressed and headed to the Gala Dinner in the formal dining room. The dress was dressy. The food was unbelievably good-gourmet all the way. We sat with a couple from Phoenix, Arizona. We had a lovely time talking to them about travel.
          We got back to our cabin about 8:00 and prepared for tomorrow's tour of Quebec, and started packing.

          Today was a particularly trying day, lots to do and little time. We planned on getting a lot done and we did, much to our exhaustion. We decided to skip the performance tonight, though it sounded like a nice song and dance show about the British Invasion of music.
The temperature did not get above 55F with clear skies and lots of wind. We continued watching out our cabin windows as we sailed. We had land on both sides of the ship as we cruised the St. Lawrence Seaway toward Quebec.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Autumn in Canada #10

Autumn in Canada #10

Wednesday, October 9, 2019
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada

          This morning we woke to the sunrise streaming in our stateroom window. We watched out our window as the sky lit up. The day was bright, sunny, and cloudless.

Charlottetown is where the book Anne of Green Gables took place. There were 4 tours to visit the house and grounds of Green Gables. But they were full. We decided to go for a walk around historic Charlottetown instead. We walked through Customs where there were many photo opportunities. Several stands lined the wall of the large room selling merchandise. Bill stopped to look at some maple syrup when he dropped a glass bottle and it cracked. What a sticky mess!

          Charlottetown. Prince Edward Island is really quite beautiful. We stopped in the Port visitor center and got a map of the town. On our way out a woman stopped us for a survey and gave us two tickets to the musical play, Annie & Gilbert (about Annie of Green Gables) that would have cost $79.95 each if purchased as an excursion.

          We decided to take the historic walk rather than the shopping route. Up the hill and through some very quaint little tree-lined streets with many colorful Victorian houses and past a huge cathedral.

We continued up the street and down a couple of alleys. Some trees were starting to turn but the colors were nowhere as intense or complete as our last trip to this area of the country 2008.

          We stopped at the Province House and sat under an Elm tree to admire the colorful trees on the grounds.

A horse-drawn wagon loaded with tourists passed by with the clip-clop of the hooves and jingling of the harness bells.  We passed some cute shops and stopped to buy an ornament for our tree.  On the corner across the street, we found the Guild theater where the musical was to take place. We checked the time and made the decision not to wait around for two hours, or have lunch in town and then sit through the musical. Our legs and feet ached – in fact, we ached all over and decided to go back to the ship for lunch, a swim, hot tub soak.. That was the correct choice.
          After lunch, we went to the pool deck (which is enclosed by a retractable glass roof. The air was warm and the sun felt good. We laid on a couple of chaise lounges and both ended up falling asleep. After a short nap. We went back to the cabin to change.

          The swimming pool water was the perfect temperature, but the pool is quite small not deep at all. We swam a bit and then soaked in the hot tub. We got out and stopped at the Dive-in bar (fast food), We each made a taco,  the guacamole was excellent.
          We changed for dinner and went to the library to continue reading the two books we’d been enjoying.  We got some hot chocolate and watched the sunset out of the huge windows. So, today we watched both the sunrise and sunset today! 

         Our 7:30 dinner reservation came up and headed to the dining room. We both had the most delicious New England clam chowder with dinner...and it was gluten-free!

          Tonight we set our clocks back another hour for Quebec time.