Posts Tagged With: Canada

Ottawa and Montreal

It was nice not to have to get up early, break camp and head out early in the morning.  We have two nights here in Ottawa, giving us a full day to explore the city.  It is a Saturday, so it is even better.  Of course we had rain overnight, but it wasn’t raining yet, even though the temperature was in the 40’s.  We quickly got to town, in fact we almost missed the exit, it was so close.  First task was to get free tickets for a tour of parliament, then we walked around parliament hill.  There is currently a 10-year restoration in progress for the main historic buildings, so you could see some of the restored changes and compare to the weathered look of some of the older buildings.

 

 

After taking some photos of the Peace Tower we walked to the riverfront and then to Rideau Canal to watch some boats go through the locks.  Further along was the Museum of Art and this wild spider sculpture (reminded me of one mentioned in Dan Brown’s Origin, but that one was in Bilbao, Spain.)  Not much farther along was the very cool Byward Market –  several blocks of restaurants, bars, shops and lots of farmer’s market stalls.  Since it was Saturday, it got increasingly busy.  We did manage to grab some delicious pastries and farther along opted for a sandwich and mocha at Starbucks.  It was still chilly and partly cloudy, so the coffee was good.

  

  

Back to the Peace Tower for our tour of parliament.  We got to see the Canadian version of the House and Senate and the Library of Parliament and learned a lot about the constitutional monarchy and the role that Queen Elizabeth still plays in this country, part of the UK.  Interesting contrast to the government buildings we saw on our trip to Washington (Capital and Library of Congress).

  

  

 

 

Lots of photos of stone buildings (gallery below), but it was all so very interesting.  We finished the day with a search for the special Christmas yarn at our second Wal-Mart stop, but no luck.  Wal-Mart 2, Jackie 0.  I also stopped off at the Small Pony Barrelworks for just two more tastes of the sours while working on the blog.  A nice grilled steak finished off the evening as we awaited yet another night of rain (?).  Up early tomorrow for a short drive to Montreal, making camp and heading into the city all in one day.  Should be fun.

MONTREAL

Indeed, it only took us just over 2 hours to reach our KOA outside Montreal, a nice clean spot with many open sites.  We got Kodi and Merlin situated, unhitched the car yet again and drove in to Montreal.  Let me warn you if you are traveling to this city, there is major road construction on the way in and on many of the city streets.  Allow yourself plenty of time.  Fortunately it was Sunday.

We kind of felt like we were in an episode of the Amazing Race, since everything in Quebec is in French.  At least in Ontario you had both English and French on signs.  Not that we find the directional signs exactly plentiful here in Canada.  So we are quickly translating the English approximation for scenic drive, detour, stop, no turn on red, yield … that sort of then, plus still trying to see what 100 kph translates to (maybe 62 mph?)  Closer to the city we were on a wide detour that dropped us in downtown, but there were police lights flashing all around us.  What the heck?   Get this … a motorcycle rally was riding through. – exactly where we wanted to be Lots of police, closed streets and, well, you know our luck and motorcycle rallies.  We scooted around it and found a parking spot and started off on foot in Old Montreal.

The first “must see” building is the Basilica Notre-Dame de Montreal.  Once through the line, we were treated with a beautiful sanctuary.  Impressive design.

  

   

We continued on along the cobbled streets, heading downhill toward the waterfront.  Montreal is along the St. Lawrence River and there is quite a lot of shopping, restaurants, museums and recreation along the waterfront.  While the flowers and artists and shops were colorful and inviting, we were on a mission to find some sort of pub to get something good to eat and drink.  Aha!  Jackie found a spot hidden under one of the old stone waterfront buildings called “Pub BreWskey”  Sounds like our kinda place.  Well it was perfect.  Intimate, warm (it was a chilly day for sure) and lots of beer on tap.  We ordered two flights from sours to ambers to lagers and a peanut butter stout.  They added a special “weekend-only” variant of one of the beers, complimentary, which was cool.

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Food-wise this was a treat.  We ordered two cups of beer cheese soup and split a grilled cheese with skirt steak sandwich, and as you can see by the picture, it was a pretty big portion.  The cheese soup was the best we have ever tasted and the sandwich — yum.  Melted cheese and steak on a crusty French bread, plus smashed potatoes that were really more like home fries soaked in bacon grease and then fried.  Perfect with the beer.

After that meal it was time to walk the several blocks back to the car and find our way home.  This direction we didn’t hit the construction detours, so we made better time.  Wait…. there is a Wal-Mart.  Must stop and check for the special yarn.  Ooops.  Wal-Mart: 3, Jackie: 0, since the store was closed (early on Sundays!)  Darn.  Back in camp we took the dog for a walk, listened to Merlin complain and put our feet up.  Tomorrow is another short run, as we cross the border back into the US and find our way to Grand Isle, Vermont.  We have to dump and fill with fresh water, as we are going to be without electric and water for a week now.

Thanks for following along.  More to come on the journey, as we cross back into the US.

Doug

 

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Crossing Ontario, Canada

An early sunrise greeted us as we showered and pulled up to head into Canada.  Crossing over the bridge at Sault Saint Marie (oh and it’s Soo, not salt), we looked down on the locks, the rapids and the power canals.  And then we were at the border crossing, handing over our passports. A few questions about where we were headed, firearms and did we have alcohol (yes, just two bottles) and we were waved through.  Wow a lot easier than we thought. Shoulda bought that Kentucky Bourbon after all.

The day was a long drive across the upper shore of Lake Huron and the North Channel, but the scenery was spectacular.  There is so much water: ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, bogs all of which look like they would be perfect for wildlife, especially moose.  We even saw several moose crossing signs, but alas no moose. Plenty of beaver lodges though. We are also seeing the first signs of fall color among the spruces, firs, aspens and birch.  Just some pops of color among the dark evergreens and white trunks.

The first part of the drive had small towns and farmland.  We saw some more sandhill cranes in the cornfields and plenty of geese.  One flock might have had some snow geese mixed in. In some of the farming areas we saw horse and buggy warning signs and we weren’t sure why until we passed a horse and carriage trotting along the wide shoulder.  Neither of us knew if there were Quakers or Mennonites locally, but it seems so. As we got closer to our destination, Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park, the terrain was more rocky, with outcrops along the road covered in reindeer moss and spruce.  Canadians must love stacking rocks, as there were many rock cairns (or totems or hoodoos) on the outcroppings. Some were rather artistic creations, one even had a yellow cape.

The campground was a very nice wooded spot, but the entrance road was way too bumpy – we were pitching left and right and up and down and… well everything seemed to be rattling.  Our site was just across from a stream that ran from a nice lake to the Matawa River, with a nice overlook down 50 feet or so to the water. Once settled in and after a walk with Kodi to find bear or moose (no luck) we sat with our drinks at a table on the edge of the stream.  As we reviewed the day’s travel, we watched several mergansers swimming along. It was really cool.

 

Of course it rained again overnight and the fabric footstools we left outside to dry (from our plumbing adventure) got soaked once again.  But since it was a pull-through site we didn’t have to disconnect the car and it was easy to leave in the moring for our final leg to Ottawa.  The road we travel goes along the Mattawa River, the northern border of Ontario. Lots of water again, ponds, lakes, the river, bogs, several beaver lodges, but no wildlife.  It was an easier day of driving and we got to Wesley Clover Campground, just outside Ottawa and right off the interstate just after noon. Disconnected the car and set up in camp. 

One fun thing in camp are these oversized picnic tables with carved animals on the ends.  It seems that Kodi was quite taken with one.

Jackie discovered (somewhere along the trip in Ohio) that Bernat yarn had come out with special color blends for Christmas, but would only be available in Wal-Marts in Canada.  Well isn’t that lucky for us? So a mission, once we got into Canada, was to find a Wal-Mart and get that yarn. Of course no stores until Ottawa, so once here we hopped in the car to get to a Wal-Mart close by.  Alas, all out. Ah well, guess we will do the brew tour instead.

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Three breweries within 4 miles (er kilometers), so we sampled a little at each.  Covered Bridge brewing had a nice raspberry wheat; Big Rig was a very cool set-up and pretty big, with a delicious pumpkin porter, grapefruit shandy and a porter Jackie liked.  Last stop was Small Pony Barrelworks. All they brewed was barrel-aged sours, so Jackie was kinda out of luck, but I loved it. Sampled all sorts of blueberry, raspberry, sour cherry, elderberry, hibiscus sours, each with a different color and flavor.  What fun. 

Back in camp now, after grilling a nice dinner of boneless chops and brussel sprouts.  Our footstools finally dried so I put them away – which was a good thing because it is now raining once again as I write this blog.  Ah well, at least it really hasn’t rained in the afternoons when we arrive at destinations. Tomorrow is a full day in Ottawa seeing the city and then we pick up and head east just a bit to stay outside Montreal.  Looking forward to a nice Saturday in Ottawa.  

Check back as we post more pictures and stories of our trek to Maine.  Thanks for following along so far.

Doug

 

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Leaf-peeping Journey to New England

Maine Route

Seems like It’s been a long summer at home and we have been itching to start out on our next adventure: leaf peeping in New England. Last fall Jackie declared that she missed the bright fall colors of the northeast, so we started to plan out a route that would culminate in Acadia National Park in Maine.

As plans developed, we learned that our nephew was planning an Appalachian Trail thru-hike and there was a possibility we would find ourselves in Maine just as he was finishing the hike. How cool is that? Unfortunately he suffered an ankle injury in the Pennsylvania/New York section of the trail and has had to postpone the final section of the hike. But he tells us he is planning to restart the hike from there and see how far he can go before cold weather stops his progress, so maybe we can meet up in New England after all.

If you have been following our posts, you know we have had a few repairs that were needed on the motorhome. The refrigerator is now back in operation – turns out it was a small fuse in the back of the unit (who knew?) that failed. Now I have several spare fuses onboard, just in case. We also had a growing crack in the passenger side windshield that meant that half of the windshield needed to be replaced. A few dollars later and we have a new windshield, for the second time (hey, it’s a lot of glass in front!) Such is life in a motorhome.

As we prepare to head north, what is on the list? This trip seems pretty well suited to a true “brew tour.”  Besides some wonderful state and national parks, recreation areas and scenic drives, there are a number of craft breweries on the way that you just can’t pass up. So with a pretty straight shot up to Michigan we can begin our quest with stops at Bell’s, Founders and New Holland Breweries.

The trip will take us across into Ontario, Canada, with stops in Ottawa and Montreal before crossing back into the US and across New Hampshire and Vermont and into Maine and Bar Harbor for our Acadia stay. Magic Hat, Harpoon, Sea Dog, Shipyard, Sam Adams– all breweries along the way. Plus the White and Green Mountains, Franconia Notch, and the coast of Maine, then the return through the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Should be a very different type of trip for us.

So we have the RV packed, have health certificates for the pets (border crossings), reservations made and a full tank of gas. The open road beckons! Check back or “follow” to get an alert about new postings — once I have some good stories and some awesome pictures, that is.

Thanks for joining us on our latest adventure.

Doug

First night is a nicely wooded KOA in Corbin, Kentucky:

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Amazing Alaska Adventure – Part 2

Skagway to Vancouver

The great Alaskan adventure continues for the four explorers: Doug, Jackie, Jeff and Vicki.  This June trip-of-a-lifetime had a great start in Anchorage and Seward, Alaska and continues south through the Inside Passage aboard the cruise ship Celebrity Millennium.  This was our first time aboard a Celebrity ship and we were well impressed.  The food and service were just wonderful, our oceanview staterooms were generous and the vibe onboard was relaxed and comfortable.  Blankets on the upper decks were handy on chilly, wet days and the pools and hot tubs were refreshing on a couple of rather warm sea days.

  

Arriving in Skagway, the rainy, cloudy weather began to clear and we could see the mountains that surrounded this gold rush town and the valley up the White Pass.  The rocky wall alongside the dock was painted with the names of ships that had visited this port and we could see the rail cars of the White Pass and Yukon Route narrow guage railway lined up alongside our ship.  Jackie and I had tickets booked for this ride and Jeff and Vic were hoping their helicopter ride to glaciers was still going to happen that day.

Our trip up the White Pass was great fun, as we climbed through the valley, across trestles and through tunnels, tracing the route of the Klondike gold rush stampede.  We crossed into Canada and stopped at Fraser to have a look at the surrounding glacial tarn (lakes) and till (rocks).  That’s also where we hopped a bus for the return trip back down to Skagway.

We spent the rest of the day exploring town, one that retains its gold rush charm, and peeled off a layer as the day cleared and got rather warm.  The Red Onion Saloon and brothel, Klondike Brewery, (Trail Coffee Blonde and Lost at Sea Coconut Brown Ale) and Skagway Brewing (Spruce Tip Ale and Blue Top Porter) were highlights.  Klondike Brewery had just opened a month earlier and had some really good brews.

  

When we met up with Jeff and Vicki back on board, they recounted how exciting their flight to the glacier was, with about 40 minutes spent on the glacier observing a moulin (vertical shaft with meltwater) and tasting glacial water.  We had another great meal in the dining room a return visit to the martini bar and watched our departure for Icy Strait Point from the upper decks.  The views as we pulled away from shore and down through the fjord were just breathtaking!

On day 5 we were headed to Hoonah, a small town that has an upgraded wharf and dock courtesy of the cruise line that is now rebranded as Icy Strait Point.  It is a wonderful spot to shop in the converted salmon cannery, try the long zipline, wander through old growth rainforest or catch a whale watching excursion.

The whale watching is what Jackie and I were ready for as we motored out of the Hoonah marina on a beautiful, calm morning in a small boat.  A pair of bald eagles watched us leave the dock as we sped off in search of humpbacks.  The boat slowed as we passed patches of kelp and spotted a sea otter with youngster just feet from the boat.

Look!  Over there, a whale blow (puff of steam) and we were in the midst of several humpbacks.  We drifted about quietly as we listened to them surface, blow and then dive down, treating us to several views of tail flukes.  Among them were porpoises bobbing up and down and then suddenly up ahead we had a full on breach of 15-20 feet of water and whale up out of the water.  It went by so quickly that it was almost missed by most of us.  Altogether we probably spotted a dozen humpbacks, plus a sea lion lounging on a channel marker.  Another great day on the water.

Once back on shore and walking around the old cannery, I lost Jackie but caught up with Jeff and Vicki. Jeff had done a toe dip in the water off shore and declared it cold.

When we finally found Jackie she was in a panic about lost binoculars – did she leave them onboard the excursion boat? Shuttle van? Restroom?  A bit of a scramble led to the lost and found desk at the excursions desk and luckily they had been found and turned in.  Ok then, crisis averted.

It was an early afternoon departure from Icy Strait, as we made room for another Celebrity cruise ship to dock.  The sail away was another beautiful one as we scanned the water for more whales and the shorelines for bears.  We were not disappointed, as we saw about 8 – 10 humpbacks cooperatively feeding in the distance, but only “rock bears” on shore.

Ketchikan was our next port of call and the beautiful weather continued.  Ketchikan is a busy port and we were joined by another cruise ship along the dock.  We were in search of totems in this town, plus a visit to Creek Street, home to many brothels that operated into the 1950’s.  Each couple headed out to explore town and do some souvenir shopping.

Jackie and I wandered up along the Creek Streets boardwalks, stopping a moment to read about Dolly’s Place and several of the business women of the area.  Salmon are an important part of the local economy and the upper area of the Ketchikan Creek had a cool salmon ladder that bypassed the waterfall.  We stopped in at the Totem Heritage Center to learn more about the story poles.

On our walk back to the wharf we passed a cute cottage with an artfully designed rock and container garden.  We met the owner, Cora, and had a good conversation about gardens and the challenges of keeping deer and slugs away from the plants.  It seems deer are one critter we have in common.  I told her about my glass totem hobby and suggested she consider trying her hand at the glass sculptures.  (I later read her nice comment on the blog).

As we crossed the Ketchikan Creek there was a bit of commotion.  We noticed a fisherman on the bridge had a salmon hooked with a pretty light spinning rig and was trying to keep him hooked while moving off the bridge and down the rocky shore – in sandals.  We got to see the big fish as he wrestled him ashore and we were pretty certain he would have to hurry before an eagle snatched it up.  But he walked off with his trophy – a darn nice catch!

Onboard was our second “chic” night and I wore a totally appropriate tie given to me by a student a few years back.  The tie featured Tlingit art salmon – perfect tribute to the places we had visited.  However, it seems we were hitting some really cold air as we left Ketchikan and the ship was surrounded by thick fog.  Made for an unsettling night, with the ship’s fog horn blowing regularly (umm, no big ice I hope!)

The day at sea through the Inside Passage was next, as we sailed into Canadian waters surrounded by green mountains in our narrowest fjord.  It was such a nice day that much of the time was spent around the pool deck as we continued to scour the water and hillsides for wildlife.  We spotted some whales blowing in the distance and saw a few porpoise in our wake.

The poolside grill featured an Alaska Crab platter for the second time, so we cracked into three big Alaskan crab legs, two crab cakes, crab bisque and a garlic roll — of course accompanied by our onboard favorite Alaskan White Ale.  It was also Jackie’s birthday, so we made a fuss at dinner as she blew out the candle on her cake.  The evening was delightful on the upper deck as we watched the sun actually set later that night.  What a great last evening aboard as we approached our final port in Vancouver.  (Well, it was still a scramble as we packed our bags for departure that night).

Next morning I was up early to watch our approach into Vancouver harbor.  Quite the contrast from the small Alaskan towns we had visited.  The port was busy with ferries, helicopters, seaplanes and many tankers in the harbor waiting their turn.

After breakfast we watched the load-in of fresh vegetables and fruits as we awaited our call to depart the ship.  Changeover days are definitely bittersweet – you head off as a new group gets ready to board and receive their welcome champagne.  Was it really only last week that we had ours?

We caught a taxi to our Best Western Sands hotel in the West End, zipping through downtown skyscrapers, midtown neighborhoods and eventually a block from the seawall.  We checked our bags and hiked off in search of rental bikes to ride around nearby Stanley Park.  We couldn’t really decide once we got to the rental spot and thought we were hungry, so we made our way past so many different eateries, though most were not open.  Indecision led us back to our hotel and the restaurant next door, The Park Pub, where we ate another breakfast (it was barely 11 am).

 

This one was deliciously hearty: Vic had poutine (potatoes, eggs, cheese), Jeff had a version of steak and eggs, I had oatmeal with fruit and Jackie had fruit with yogurt.  We were able to check in to our room, so up we went and promptly all crashed on the beds.

Two hours later we were up and much refreshed.  So of course we had to go explore.  It was a fair day along the seawall, so we walked and people-watched and discussed plans for the next day.  Our flight didn’t leave until 10:30pm, so we had another whole day in town.  The conversation and indecision about places to eat continued until dinner, until we found out that our hotel restaurant had $4 hamburgers for happy hour.  Decision made!  And it was a good one.  We had burgers piled high, more fries than we could eat and cold beer to drink as we sat along the sidewalk and enjoyed the evening.

Next day we split up with instructions to meet up for an early dinner at TapShack on the harbor and then catch a cab to the airport.  Jeff and Vic headed out on bikes to explore Stanley Park and we tried the Hop On, Hop Off bus tour of the city.  Biking is a big deal around Vancouver, with lots of rental shops, bike lanes and a long route along the seawall and Stanley Park.  Our open-air bus trip around town took us to so many places we had to do the loop twice (with walking tours here and there). We saw:

When we met up at TapShack on the waterfront under Burrard Bridge we had a delicious meal of fish tacos, yummy fresh salad, chips and salsa.  Of course local beer selections, too.  Probably the best beer of the trip for me was a mandarin radler.  Jeff liked the Hoyne Brewing Dark Matter, a Guiness style ale.  Back to the hotel, catch the cab, head through security and out to the gate to await the flight home.

Just over four hours later and we were dragging our bags to customs and a very confusing checkpoint then back home to hot and humid Atlanta weather.  Another crash on the bed and visions of whales in our heads.  What an adventure!

Where are we off to next?  Well, we still have a few minor fixes for the motorhome before we head out in September for fall leaf spotting in the northeast and Maine.  Plus, we will be watching our nephew Adam’s progress up the Appalachian Trail to see if we will meet him there in October.

Otherwise … who knows what adventures lie ahead?

By the way, if you are planning a cruise, give our travel agent Cynthia Long (617-587-6000 x 38584) at CruisesOnly a call.  She was a great help booking the trip and getting us some onboard credits and extras.  Mention us and we can earn points.

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