Montreal Marvels

Every four years a great sporting event happens and the highlight for me is the gymnastics. In 1976 I was only 9 years old but I do remember watching Nadia Comaneci get the first ever perfect 10 in the Montreal Olympic games.

Our lovely hotel was only a hop, skip and jump away from the Olympic Park, so that was our first port of call when we arrived in Montreal. After a quick pose in the Place Nadia Comaneci we made our way to the main stadium with the intention of taking the funicular to the top of the tower. The stadium boasts the highest inclined tower in the world standing at 175 metres. Just a short ride affords the most amazing panoramic view of the Olympic park, Botanical gardens and the rest of the city.

While exploring the old town we discovered the most beautiful cathedral I’ve ever seen. The Notre Dame’s interior is absolutely exquisite. I won’t be able to do it justice by describing it, so just look at these photos.

From a roof top terrace enjoying a little tipple or two we noticed a very large mound of greenery in the distance looming over the city. This is the Parc du Mont – Royal and it’s huge, it’s the site of an eroded ancient volcanic complex. The walk to the top is a steady winding incline that seems to go on and on forever. Or if feeling more energetic there are very steep woodland paths and staircases to climb. On either walks you are treated to beautiful scenery and trees galore in shades of orange, red, green and yellow. Our reward for getting to the end of the long and winding road was the amazing view from the Belvedere Kondiaronk lookout in front of the Chalet du Mont Royal. It seemed like we were on the very top of Montreal and couldn’t get any higher.

I was wrong….The highest point as it turns out is the 46th floor of the Observatoire Place Ville Maria. The floor to ceiling glass panels ensured that the 360 degree views were phenomenal. We spotted a pretty roof terrace on the 44th floor and decided to take a closer look. It was part of the restaurant and it was time for another drink, well apparently they are none too friendly in this establishment if you only want a drink.

As with Quebec be prepared to speak French or at least try.  Montreal is a fascinating city with a good metro network. As we were staying for only 4 nights we only saw a small part. Good excuse to return.

Next stop Ottawa……

Quirky Quebec

Our journey started with a very turbulent flight to Montreal, I think we only had 3 hours of smooth flight in the whole 7 hours. I must admit I enjoy a bit of turbulence so it didn’t put me off my film fest.

18 hours and a bus ride later we had arrived in Quebec. My heart sank a bit on the taxi drive to our hotel as it seemed quite a way out of town. The Bate’s motel lookalike had a very comfortable room and a lovely warm swimming pool to relax in. Once we got our bearings and worked out the bus routes it was all good.

bates motel

The best part about our location was our close proximity to the Montmorency Falls, it was just a short bus journey away. Situated and protected in the Montmorency Falls Park, the waterfalls are 83 metres tall, that’s 30 metres taller than Niagara Falls. The sight and sound of the falls from the suspension bridge is breathtaking. For the brave (and slightly fit) tourists there is a staircase all the way down the cliff to the foot of the falls.  The 487 steps are more than manageable on the way down, but I found the ascend just a little more challenging, fortunately there are quite a few places to stop and take a well earned breather. The park around the falls and the main house are stunning, and we were so lucky to see it in autumn.

Quebec is an exceptionally pretty French city, Vieux Quebec is a UNESCO world heritage site and this so well deserved. It’s full of beautiful architecture, quirky shops and cafés and divided into the lower and upper cities. These are connected by either a steep walk or by the funicular. Travelling down the cliff at a 45 degree angle and track is 64 metres long, it was first opened in 1879. Originally it was propelled by a water ballast system, but converted to an electrical system in 1907. It’s a lovely way to get to the lower city and port, but I still felt the need to challenge myself by taking the picturesque steep walk back up.

While on our day out to the falls we saw the Queen Mary 2 sailing into port in the distance. So on our second visit to Vieux Quebec we knew we needed to make our way to the port to get a good look at this beautiful ship. When we tracked it down we noticed a smaller less elegant boat offering a return trip up the Saint Lawrence river. I don’t usually like boats as I tend to feel sick just looking at them. But the on-board tour guide was so entertaining and knowledgeable that I didn’t feel the need to frequent the loos to vomit at all. It was a very relaxing journey that returned to port just as the sun was starting to go down, giving the city a lovely magical glow.

Quebec is an amazing place to visit but a word to the wise, it is a predominantly French speaking city, it is everyone’s first language. There are many people in the shops, cafes and restaurants that do speak English, but it is not guaranteed. I brushed up on my school girl French as soon as I booked up our trip, also quite a few holidays in France helped me to remember. They really do appreciate you trying to speak in French if you can.

Next stop …back to Montreal

80 fabulous years young

In March this year my mum turned 80. Some of my merry band of followers may remember me writing about my adventures doing fifty fabulous things to celebrate reaching my half century.

Funnily enough my mum didn’t think she would be able to come up with 80 things to do to celebrate this significant birthday. Just as well given that we are now in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic.

But luckily we did manage to celebrate with a week long agenda of outings and family gatherings including a surprise party, ten pin bowling and lunch at the Ivy in Winchester, before the lockdown commenced.

But the best bit of luck was booking our big trip away last year before all this madness began. While discussing possible birthday treats we decided a big holiday would be fabulous, both of us had always fancied visiting Canada.

So a plan was hatched ….. three weeks in the east coast, visiting Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Niagara Falls and finishing off over the border in Manhattan.

The next few posts are about our adventures in North America and bits of local information which might entice you to visit this amazing part of Canada.