On The Road Canada – Day 11 -13: St. Lawrence River, New Brunswick

Day 11

I watched the sun come up this morning over the St. Lawrence River. It was 5:00am here when that event occurred.  It turns out that the bed in our little motel room just proved to be too hard for my bursitis, so I spent most of the night in a chair waiting for the aforementioned event. It was worth it. The only other person arousing at that hour was a lonely fisherman. I watched him for about ten minutes. He didn’t catch any fish, but I don’t suspect that was the true reason he was out there. I think he, like me, just wanted to savor his surroundings.

Given all this time to think I have pretty much decided to forsake the two to three day trip around the peninsula and just head over to Nova Scotia instead.  That is if I can convince my wife. She seems to have veto power over almost everything I do now days.  But, since she seems to be sleeping pretty soundly right now I will have to wait to pose that alternative route.  I think I would rather spend a few days in a row at one place in the maritime providences than another day in French Quebec.

My wife says I am fixated on it, but I just can’t seem to get over the seeming arrogance of the French-speaking Canadians. As I said before, everywhere we went in Ontario, and I expect everywhere we will go in New Brunswick we will see dual English/French signs, menus and about everything else. But in French Canada there is almost nothing in English here.   While it would be nice to go to some local museums we have come across I’m pretty sure there would be nothing in English for us there so what would be the point. It just seems hospitable if you are surrounded by people speaking another language you would provide basic things in their language as well as your own.

Day 12

It seems every day in our visit to Canada is not without its challenges. But, then again that is what makes life interesting, I guess.  It is kind of like in 1987 during our first vacation as a married couple I lost my wife in a Walmart store in Bozeman Montana. I don’t remember too many other details about that vacation, but I do remember searching for my new bride for over an hour before I found her. But that is a story, so I will get back on track.

We are now in a small motel room in Riviere-Tois-Pistoles. It is a very small town about 200 km north from Quebec (don’t ask how many miles that is as I have yet to figure that out). It is a pretty crude but clean room. The sign above the small sink says don’t drink the water. The motel is off the main road going into town and about a 1/2 mile down a gravel road. There is no a/c or TV, but that is ok. What makes this room so special is its location; it is about 50 ft from the shoreline of the St. Lawrence River. And believe it or not it has wireless internet access, at least up close to the office. The picture here is of a young fellow dipping his feet in the St. Lawrence, which I also plan on doing before we leave in the morning.

Riviere-Tois-Pistoles doesn’t have a restaurant, but it does have a small store that is pretty well-stocked with cheese and such, so that is where we went to get our supplies for supper tonight. I think eating in the view from the picnic table where we will dine will be much more pleasurable than the food and that is how it should be.  It was in the upper 80s when we left Quebec but right now it is in the upper 60s with the wind blowing off the River which is probably a mile wide here. I guess I will have to haul out a warmer jacket from the luggage to keep warm.

But now on to the challenges for the day. We are taking Quebec Highway 132, which is a two lane road that goes all the way to the mouth of the river. It will take about two more days to get around before we come back down into Nova Scotia. During our first 200 km of travel we have only come across two small pull-offs where you could stop and take in the St. Lawrence view. One of the difficulties is that for the most part all the land that adjoins the St. Lawrence seems to be in private hands. But we did find the secret to alleviating that problem and that is to seek out the Catholic Church in each town; they are usually against the river, so their parking lots make excellent viewing stands.  But there are no restrooms there, so we have to stop again later for my wife’s frequent necessity stops.

The last challenge for the day was when we stopped for a late lunch. We went to a chicken place called Saint Ambien, I think (by the way almost everything in Quebec Canada is named Saint something.) We ordered from the counter and then went to a table to wait for our food. A few minutes later they said our food was ready, but we couldn’t eat it at the tables we were sitting at as we ordered our food from the “Rapide” counter. We tried to explain that we had no idea there was any difference about where we ordered but they at least feigned understanding of English. Except for one, all the tables in the room were empty, but they insisted that we could not eat our food there.  The apparent manager of the place came out and told us again that we ordered from the take-out counter, so we had to eat our food outside in the parking lot!  As usual my wife took this much more calmly than I did even though she deemed her chicken uneatable because it wasn’t cooked enough for her.

Anyway here we are with our nerves settling down and getting ready for the challenges of tomorrow.  I want to include one final picture in this unusually long post (sorry about that). I will undoubtedly be taking many more as the sun sets over the river.

Day 13

Here we are at the end of day 12 of our Canadian adventure, and we are now in New Brunswick Canada. As I had hoped my wife agreed to skip the rest of the peninsula route and to move on to another English-speaking province.  Coping with french only was becoming tiring to me and apparently to her also.  We drove about 350 km today to get to Campbellton New  Brunswick which is the gateway to the rest of our trip. I’m sure the New Brunswick folk don’t consider themselves a gateway but many vacationers probably do.

Tomorrow we will see an historical site that has been restored around the Acadian history. From the literature it looks like a Williamsburg type event.  I am looking forward to it with great anticipation. Since we were on the road for the most part of the day no unexpected events happened.  We even managed to find a pretty good restaurant that allowed us to eat our lunch at a table inside. But, of course, it was located in English-speaking New Brunswick. 🙂

On The Road Canada: Day 10 – Old Quebec

This is day 10 of our Canadian adventure and we in Old Quebec. That is the last major city we will see in Canada. While Old Quebec was much more enjoyable than Montreal it was still a hectic time. But we did find the major stopping point we were looking for and that was Place Royale. It was part of the very old Quebec that has been completely restored back to its 1600s roots. That is except for the 21st century add-ons. Above is a picture of the main square in that area. We didn’t even attempt to get into the “new” Quebec, But I will grudgingly admit that I enjoyed the old town for the four hours we spent there.

It was a very festive place as shown in the picture gallery below. The painted murals on the walls were of the magnitude and beauty I have never encountered. I ended up spending quite some time just trying to take in the details. Even though I could not hear them the various musicians around the square were a pleasure to watch. I am certainly glad we didn’t write off this portion of the trip.

Of course this area is adjacent to the St. Lawrence River as it was the river was a major highway in its time. There were lots of nice restaurants and shops in the area, so I had trouble keeping my wife out of some of them. But, it ends up I was the one to spend for a major item which was a unique jacket. We found a parking space relatively close to the area and after plugging in about $10 worth of coins we got an hour and a half on the meter.

I made sure that I got a few pictures of the young french ladies in the area. I watched the one in the picture here put up her hair on top her head and as a result found that they follow the French in more ways than I thought. When she raised her arms to set her hair she revealed a full crop of hair under her arms. I knew Europeans don’t shave their armpits, but I was surprised to see the French Canadians don’t either. 😉

The next few weeks are bound to be less hectic than the previous one as we will not likely see another city exceeding 10,000 people during all that time. We plan on taking the local highway that runs right next to the St. Lawrence and the Atlantic for about 400 miles or so. When we find a really nice place with the scenic views that my wife relishes we will likely stay for a few days to recharge our  batteries.

I want to close out this report with more pictures of Old Quebec. It was a very picturesque place that I’m glad we visited. Click on any picture below to see a larger slideshow version.

On The Road Canada: Day 8 – 9 – Thoughts, Montreal, Quebec, Sunday Morning

A unique site at the Canada Agriculture Museum.

I guess I must tell you up front that this trip was taken in 2011. That was a time in the infancy of GPS map apps so that explains all the problems when we used Google Maps for guidance. Things have changed drastically since those early years.

Day 8 – Canada Agricultural Museum & On The Road To Montreal

Here I am sitting in our hotel room on a Sunday morning blogging again. Somewhere along my long life path I became a morning person; I do my best thinking then. It would be nice to read a paper, I mean the actual paper kind, that just seems to be more soothing for Sundays but since I could only discover the French version that isn’t happening. I’m looking out the window at a twelve lane road that goes Montreal, and it is hard to believe that it really is Sunday morning. Wait a minute I had better check on the date; yeah it is Sunday 😉

But first some morning thoughts about the only French Province in the western hemisphere. But, first I think we need a little geography lesson. As shown on the map above Ottawa is on the very tiny sliver of the Ontario Province. Up to now we have been almost a week in Ontario and things will change pretty drastically when we move just a few miles north this morning.

For one thing the French insist on French language signs everywhere in Canada but go into their Province and you will find few English signs there. They are kinda like the Republicans in the US. They want everything their way but don’t expect anything in return. Maybe I shouldn’t get political with my on-the-road reports, but the thought just hit me and I had to put it down.

Anyway I had better get moving now and get the beard shaved and shower taken so we can hit the road.  Oh just one more difference we have discovered in Canada, they don’t offer free breakfasts here or anything else free for that matter.

Yesterday decided to go into Montreal today and do a dash-in, dash-out approach.  But before we do that we want to see the Canada Agricultural Museum. We don’t want to spend our entire vacations in the big cities. The purpose of this trip was to travel along the St. Lawrence seaway and visit Nova Scotia; that is country stuff not city stuff.

They had the mandatory cows, pigs and chicken on display but what made the time so special was the creativity and uniqueness of the place. The first thing to greet us was a windmill like no other I have ever seen. Being an old farm boy I can’t say that the museum was very educational, but it was a nice place to visit and unwind from our more hectic experiences of the last few days.

Here is a small photo collection:

Jumping across into the Quebec Province

After leaving the museum I anticipated that since it was Sunday our quick trip through Montreal would be a leisurely one. I was so WRONG!!   We did get to the two Montreal sites on our agenda today, but it took almost four hours, instead of the expected two hours driving to accomplish that!  At first, I decided to try to navigate using  just the atlas. I found Mont Royal on the map and after a few misdirected turns and about 45 minutes of bumper to bumper traffic we were at that location. The trouble was that it was not “Parc du” Mont Royal. So, after admitting I couldn’t get us there (it takes a lot of gumption for us guys to admit to something like that) we turned the task over to Google Maps.  It ends up we only missed our destination by about eight miles.

We were then directed by Google maps through several streets and told to turn left which would have been the wrong way on a one-way street several times. After re-routing and taking about a half hour to go the required 8 miles we finally arrived. The view of the city was everything we thought it would be. There is a picture of it here. It was about a half mile walk from the parking lot to the site on this sunny 90 degree day. Yeah, I guess it gets up to 90 degrees F in Canada too.

After the Parc du Mont Royal we decided to try to see the Olympic complex here.  That was the one for the 1976 Olympics, I think.  My manhood was too fragile to take another serious hit, so we let OnStar take us there. As usual there were several misdirected turns and about an hour of driving, but we did get there. We turned into the visitor parking area and were told the parking would be $13. That seemed pretty high but since we had suffered all the near collisions with the crazy french drivers we paid the price.  As usual there were no elevators there for us senior citizens, so it was up a few steep stairs and finally to the big pylon that hung over the complex. It was pretty neat, but it does show its 40 years of age.  We planned to go up to the top but for that, they charged another $20 apiece, so we skipped that.  We did get into the sports area without paying any extra. It was smaller than it looked on the outside.

Anyway after four hours of fighting bumper-to-bumper traffic we decided we had seen enough of Montreal and headed north. We are now in Trois -Rivieres just south of Quebec. If we can get some of our unsettled nerves calmed down we will try a short hop in to Quebec tomorrow and then it is on to the St. Lawrence seaway up to Nova Scotia.  I don’t anticipate that there will be much of a traffic problem  up there but since I was so wrong about Montreal who knows.

Day 9 – Quebec – Parlez vous français?

Here it is at the end of day nine, and we are now fully immersed into the providence of Quebec.  It seems that everywhere we went in Ontario there was always an English sign followed by one in French.  Now that we are in Quebec the English signs have all but disappeared?  When we checked into the hotel for the night close to Montreal we did have English-speaking front desk person. That was a relief since we spent almost 4 hours going the 100 or so miles we drove today. Half of that time was trying to find a hotel for the night. 🙂

There are immediately several different things we have come across in the French speaking area. One is that the highway interchanges are much farther apart than we have yet encountered. If you want to get off at a major road you must plan well ahead or end up back tracking several miles as you accidentally pass it by.  The other obvious difference is that Google Maps, which I use through my smartphone, is just not very accurate in this area.  I found a Holiday Inn near Quebec City on the phone at the next interchange. When we got off, we followed the directions given on the active map and ended up by a concrete making establishment. No hotel in sight.

When we did finally get to where we are now staying we got off the highway and saw the hotel but couldn’t find a way to get there. Every road we tried ended up going someplace else! After four attempts we finally found the correct path and got checked in.  Now on to the final obvious difference for today. When we got to the room it was fairly well equipped suite with a TV in two rooms. But both of the TVs had the closed captioning buttons diverted to go to the hotel information. The people there seemed oblivious to know what closed captioning was or what it was for.  Since it was supposed to be a day for us to relax today we didn’t feel like doing that battle so I will settle down tonight with cruising the internet, blogging, and reading my Kindle books.  It is probably better that way anyway.

With all the experiences of today we are thinking of just skipping Quebec City entirely and heading for the St. Lawrence seaway instead. Needless to say I am not too impressed with the only French speaking area of North America. But maybe that will change. I’ll let you know how that turns out tomorrow.