It was misty when I woke this morning so I am really getting a good range of weather in Ottawa. However, it didn’t take long too clear before it was, once again, a beautiful day.
I spent the morning updating the blog, which seems to be taking an inordinate amount of time to keep my one regular reader up to date. My bus to Montreal was at 2pm, so I checked out of the guest house about midday and headed for the post office to actually post the post cards I had been walking around with for the last week. That done, I took my time strolling down Sparks Street, which is the main street, and on to the bus terminal. Once there, I sat and read by book until it was time to board.
The journey was smooth and uneventful and I even dosed off for a little while. Robyn met me at the bus station and, as she was starving, we went for a bagel before she was due at the hairdressers. Translation of what she wanted done was a little tricky so she ended up with a very small trim. The hairdresser was a student so at least it was very cheap!
Afterwards, we took the metro home and started sorting out a means of transport to Quebec tomorrow. Car pooling seems to be the way to go here and is certainly a lot cheaper than the bus (even if it means I now have to be up very early tomorrow morning!) Clara came over to eat and chat for a while and then we had to pack and have an early night ready for the early start.
We had to meet our car share ride at the metro station at 8am. This time we were lucky, as it was a very comfortable 4 wheel drive, driven by a very nice Camaroonian civil engineer, who travels between Montreal and Quebec City three times a week so he can study for an MBA in Quebec and continue working in Montreal. It sounded very hard work to me! I’m not sure why he had to go to Quebec for the course as there are 4 Universities in Montreal, but obviously there was a reason. It gave us an opportunity to practise our French, as well, as he didn’t immediately switch to English, like everyone else, as soon as he realised that we were English.
The road was straight and flat and we passed one hill just outside Montreal,, so I can now confirm that the world is flat (in eastern Canada, at least). Justin, our ‘chauffeur’, offered to take us to the hostel rather than drop us off in town, which was very handy. However, he may have regretted this as he didn’t listen to the nice sat nav lady, who was very insistent in her instructions (deja vu!!) or follow the street signs and we ended up going round in a circle. We arrived eventually though!
The hostel is excellent. We were very early but were allowed to check in and then given very helpful, if complicated instructions, in Quebecois, on how to get to the city by bus. As we couldn’t find the bus stop for the first bus, we walked to the stop where we caught a bus to Levi, from where we could catch the ferry over to Quebec City. This took quite a while (the bus, particularly) but was a lovely way to enter the city.
The old part of town was very pretty, garlanded with window boxes and flowers and obviously dressed up for the tourists, of which there were large numbers. We wandered around, taking in the interesting art work that was dotted around the streets. These seemed to comprise of plastic articles but, as the exhibition was depicting consumerism and our reliance on such items, it was hardly surprising. Certainly a bit of a contrast to the old houses though!
We had a very late lunch in one of the restaurants that I had initially vetoed (Robyn is not happy when she is hungry and I, apparently, am very fussy about where I eat) and then ambled round the old port and into the market, where we bought yet more cheese for supper. We had arranged to return with the hostel shuttle at 6.30pm and this was good timing as we were quite weary by this stage.
We shared the car with an English couple, whom I ended up talking to for quite some time that evening, having said that I was going to have an early night! They were just starting off on a year long trip through Central and South America so all sorts of topics were covered. Robyn was long asleep by the time I went to bed at 11pm but these are the times that make travel so interesting.
It was yet another beautiful blue sky day today. We were driven into the city by the hostel owner, who provides a shuttle service a couple of times a day. On the way, he detoured to show us a local waterfall and then told us the history of the Quebec Bridge, for which three attempts were made at construction before it was completed.
The first time, it was near completion, when workers and a local engineer noticed that the central part was bending. However, the New York based Chief Engineer was disbelieving and wouldn’t acknowledge the problem. The result was its collapse and the death of over seventy workers. On the second attempt, the central part was being lifted into place when the bridge collapsed again. It was finally completed on the third attempt in 1917. To this day, apparently, world wide, on graduating, civil engineers are given an iron ring to wear on their little finger to remind them of the responsibilities they have for human lives. Funnily enough, I had noticed our driver to Quebec City had had a ring of that description on his little finger but I hadn’t realised the significance.
Andre also told us about the Winter Festival in Quebec, which sounds like something worth seeing. They have kayak races, both on and off the ice, on the St Lawrence, which freezes to between 6cm and 2m during the winter and ice breakers have to clear a channel for the ships to travel through. It is hard to believe, on a day like this, that it will be -40 degrees here in a couple of months time.
On arrival in town, we took the funicular up to the oldest part of the City and joined the hordes of tourists. However, they tend to stay around the central part, so after having a chat to a nice French lady at the tourist office, we walked along the Governor’s Walk, up 310 steps to the Plain of Abraham (so called, because a man called Abraham used to graze his flock there in 18 something or other) and round the Citadel, which was built with funds from London to protect the English colony from marauding Americans. It was built into the hillside, with only one small entrance, a deep ditch and then a steep grassy slope (called a glisse, I think) so it was a very secure fortification.
Back in town, the darling daughter was hungry (yet again) and I needed to find a functional ATM. Having vetoed most of the restaurants there and found an ATM, we strolled along to a bakery we had noticed yesterday, where we had an excellent bowl of soup and freshly made baguette sandwich, along with very friendly service. What more could a girl want?
Afterwards, having bought a baguette from the bakery, we bought more cheese for supper from the nice lady in the market, who recognised us as the dithery tourists of yesterday, who couldn’t make up their minds as to whether they wanted hard or soft cheese, goat’s or cow’s because they liked all of it. Having made our choice, we then decided we would catch a bus to Montmorency Falls, which is a little way out of the city.
By the time we arrived, the sky had clouded over completely and was very grey, which didn’t look quite so good in the photographs! The bus stopped near the top of the Falls, so we walked through some woodland and down (and up) many more steps to the bottom of the Falls, which had a very large and noisy volume of water spilling over. There were, of course, the usual enthusiasts running up and down the steps as well as doing press ups along the way!
On arrival back in the City, we walked back to the Port to meet the shuttle, stopping at the railway station along the way to use the toilets. We were very pleasantly surprised at the lovely architecture inside.
We were both quite tired by the time we returned to the hostel so had a very quiet evening. I am always quite relieved when young people say they are tired as well as otherwise I just think it is because I am getting old that I feel this way!
Torrential rain greeted us this morning and put paid to any plans to walk to the local waterfall as, even if we had brought rain jackets with us (which, of course, we hadn’t), we would have been drenched in seconds.
Consequently, we spent the morning in the hostel, researching our forthcoming trip to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, whilst waiting to leave for the ride we had booked to go back to Montreal.
After lunch, we again took the hostel shuttle, this time to the Shell Station in Sainte Foy, where we met our driver. We were also joined by a young English chap from Manchester, who was travelling around after doing a 9 week Space course (he had trained as a Space Engineer), for which he had been awarded a Scholarship of $25,000 to cover the fees. Not bad going! Our driver was the silent type and all we learnt about him was that he was a social worker. As he was French speaking (with some English), we decided he probably couldn’t understand our different accents sufficiently to join in the conversation.
We were back in Montreal by 4.30pm and walked home from our drop off point, which was the next metro along the line and not very far. It was quite a brisk walk as the temperature was definitely on the decline!
I could not believe how cold it was this morning as I walked to the metro with Robyn, in spite of wearing long trousers, socks and shoes and a merino hoodie! I should have had my jacket as well. The change overnight has been remarkable and one I was not prepared for.
Robyn was working today so, after accompanying her to the mobile phone store in the underground city, where she tried (and failed) to sort out the vast charges they had made on the SIM card she had given to me to use, thinking it was a pre-pay, I walked along to the Fine Arts Museum and joined the hordes of people at the Faberge exhibition. This was not a huge exhibition but certainly very impressive.
Afterwards, even though the sun had come out, I was too cold to do anything else, so I walked along until a bus came and I could hop on that and into the warmth. I caught 2 buses back, had a bit off a walk between each, and stopped at a shopping centre for one or two things before returning to the apartment.
Someone came to view Robyn’s room, as she is leaving it, but otherwise it was a very quiet evening with the flatmates both out.
Today was very cold and got progressively wetter as the day went on. I stayed in the apartment in the morning after Robyn had gone to work and did some washing etc before deciding to venture out. It was the type of day that I would have stayed at home with my book if I had been in my own house.
It started raining when I was on my way to the bus stop. I was heading for the Bonsecours Market to see a photographic exhibition. However, by the time I arrived, having walked some way from the bus stop, through China Town, I was too cold and my feet too wet (as in squelching!) that I knew I wasn’t going to appreciate the exhibition so didn’t go in but just wandered around the boutique type shops for a little while.
I then tried to find my way, via the Underground City, to Robyn’s work but, it was obviously not my day, as I only found a part of it before having to come back up onto street level and the rain again. I had had enough of the experience to be totally disorientated though and now know what moles must feel like, although they probably have a much better internal radar than me!
I had a very large burger for a very late lunch with Robyn and waited for her to finish at 5pm, which wasn’t long. We were both relieved to get home, into warm, comfortable dry clothes.
My shoes were still wet this morning but a quick, very noisy, turn in the drier made them just about wearable. It was very cold again today when I took the metro with Robyn, who was going for her last day at work, but at least it wasn’t raining. I headed once again to the Marche de Bonsecour intending to see the World Press Photo Exhibition.
This time I went in and spent an hour or two looking at the excellent photographs. However, I would have to say that 99% of them were quite depressing, not surprisingly, I suppose, given the nature of the subjects, which was primarily armed conflict, horrendous living conditions and the aftermath of disasters, both man made and natural, because, of course, this is what makes the news. There was, however, an additional small, Oxfam sponsored, exhibition of photographs of people in Benin, which were very captivating and not depressing at all!
I came out, feeling thankful for my life, but needed to have a little sit down, so went into the Church of Notre Dame de Bonsecour, which is one of the oldest churches in Montreal and often called the Sailors’ Church. As it is in the old port, it was often used by sailors to give thanks for a safe voyage. Churches, I find, are very useful for having a bit of a rest if the weather is too inclement to go to the park!
Feeling rejuvenated temporarily, I then went into the Textile Art Museum, which I thought had a permanent exhibition but doesn’t, as I found out. The current exhibition is of knitting and wool and had a number of wondrous knitted dresses from the 1970’s, made by Quebec fashion designers, who were apparently well regarded in that era. It was the complete antithesis to the Press Photography Exhibition and I came out with a smile on my face. It’s hard to believe people actually wore some of those creations!
I made another unsuccessful attempt to find the elusive 30km of Underground City, and, in doing so, stumbled upon the Commicon exhibition, which is an exhibition for ‘geeks’ and ‘nerds’, who dress up as their favourite game character. Consequently, there were a number of strangely dressed people, wandering around (and they weren’t all young men either!!).
I eventually arrived at Robyn’s work and had another late lunch and another burger with her. I think I have eaten more burgers in the last week than I have in the last 3 years! However, they are home made and very good, especially today’s, which was made by Nick, who piled on all the extras. It was very messy!
After that, it was onto the bus and home via Walmart where I must have bought the cheapest socks in the world and certainly the cheapest item I have come across in Canada. Three pairs of socks for $2, a bargain!
Robyn went to Clara’s for pancakes after work so I spent most of the evening on my own.
All morning was spent with Robyn sorting our her belongings and cleaning the flat, which it was her turn to do. Once this was finished, we took the metro into town in search of an outdoor clothing shop that sells thermals. This trip took us up through the Latin Quarter where there is a myriad of small cafes and restaurants and one or two shops of the type we were looking for. Alas, no thermals. Canadians obviously don’t wear them.
It was a beautiful day though after the last couple of grey ones, so it was very pleasant just to amble along. It was also well past lunchtime, so we stopped at a very inviting bakery, where the choice made it almost too hard to decide. We settled on a baguette sandwich and little quiche to share and sat in their lounge, above their kitchens, to eat them. There was constant activity down below, with delicious looking things being rolled out and going into the ovens. The shop itself was extremely busy and, once we had eaten, we were forced to purchase cakes for later, which we ate when we got home. Wonderful!
Afterwards, we continued our walk and then caught a bus into the centre, in search of the other items on our list. This proved also unsuccessful but we did walk through the elusive underground city, which is really just a whole lot of shopping centres joined up. Maybe I had been looking for a bit more in my searches!
Lastly, we stopped at the information centre for a map of Quebec and some information on the Gaspesie Peninsula, which is our destination for tomorrow. Then we managed to catch the busy metro home at peak time.
Robyn took a back pack full of her belongings to leave at Clara’s (not sure how she managed to fit everything in her own back pack when she travelled here!) and I was left completely on my own again, the flatmates both being out. (Not that I am complaining about that!)