Friday, August 26, 2016

Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy post!

     After leaving Quebec City my plan was to stay at the hostel located downtown Ottawa very near the parliament buildings. In emails with the folks at the hostel, they said I could park at their parking lot for $12 per day.

     But getting there was problematic. So many detours! Unknown to me was a three-year plan to re-route almost the entire city which began last year.

     I arrived finally at the hostel (which was the city's jail built in 1862) and parallel parked at a street meter requiring a quarter for six minutes. I didn't have a collection of Canadian quarters, so while illegally parked on the street I quickly looked for their parking lot. It was behind a stone archway built in 1862!! I'd need someone to hold the other end of my measuring tape to measure the width and height of this archway before I attempted pulling into this lot. The folks inside the hostel were, let's say, inhospitable. Even though I'm a card-carrying hostel member, I couldn't use their bathroom because I wasn't registered and they couldn't understand why I needed help to measure their stone archway.

    Deciding the stone archway would be too tight for me even if I did fit under the archway (plus tight maneuvering around the other little cars once inside the lot), I opted for the hospital parking lot. But once at the hospital arriving via detours of course, there was a waiting line of cars for all their lots with signs flashing "Full"!  So, Plan C was Walmart's parking lot. I thankfully parked at Walmart, unloaded my bike and easily found the bike path to several points. But the bike path along the canal was closed on January 1, 2016! High link-fences everywhere.

Detours for the bike path were as bumpy as the roadway detours for vehicles. I was not having fun.

     So I went back to Walmart's parking lot, loaded my bike and ate ice cream for supper. I have been spoiled by the cool weather and need for a blanket at night while traveling around the Gaspe Peninsula. In Ottawa, I had a rude awakening to inland heat; 94 degrees on a baked asphalt parking lot at 8 PM.

     I am now enroute to Lake Huron, hoping for a cold lake breeze.

     But, not all was in turmoil. The night before I arrived in Ottawa  I was driving alongside the Saint Lawrence River on the wonderfully scenic Route 132. About 150 miles west, up the river from Quebec City is a little village along an island named Contrecoeur. I parked at a boat launch parking lot to consider spending the night there.

     Incredibly, the village's city hall and library (included free Wifi at the parking lot) were located behind me at the parking lot. And at six o'clock, that church and another church rang their bells, wonderfully not in sync. It brought back pleasant memories of reasons I love the little villages of France.

   And to the right of me, a pavilion with large trees and chairs.

     Now that I've given you the backdrop, here's my story. Have you seen "Rear Window" the 1954 mystery thriller film with Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly? In the beginning of the film, Jimmy is confined to a wheelchair recuperating from a broken leg, and from his large rear window he watches his neighbors with his binoculars to amuse himself. He watches a courtyard with many apartments, so there are lots of folks mingling and moving around. I spent two hours watching the townfolks at this parking lot from my front window seat in La Lair and it was a great movie! There was no crime, just a lot of folks having a good time.

     Six standing board paddlers arrived, two were lovers (he couldn't keep his hands off her, one heck of a passionate kiss, too), one kayaker arrived and talked with one of the standing paddlers. They showed each other photos on their Iphones and flirted, too. Many boaters showed up to back-up and load/unload their little boats on the two ramps. A German Shepherd dog walker showed up and met four adults on the park bench. A bicyclist with dog on leash let his dog swim and cool off.  Four teen boys hung around the porta-potties for a long while; probably doing what teens do out of their parents' sight. An inline skater showed up. There was a Raymond Burr-looking boater who returned to the dock without his lady companion, hmm, wonder what he did with her? Just kidding :)   Every ten seconds, there was someone new to observe. I know it's crazy, but I loved this real life movie playing on my front window. Contrecoeur gets my vote for best little village in Quebec Province :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

One Day in Quebec City

     Last summer when I was in Montreal for a week, I didn't have time to include Quebec City on my travel agenda. But I did have time this summer. Quebec City, capitol of the Quebec Province, is on the northern shore of the Saint Lawrence River.

     I took Kevin and Ruth's advice and parked on the southern side of the river and took the ferry to the city. I missed this ferry by one minute but the ferries run every 15 minutes.

     Did you notice that big hill in the first photo above? When I disembarked the ferry, I walked up about 300 steps to the visitor's center. I was glad I didn't bring my bike. This is not a bikeable city.

My first impression? Very touristy.

     At the visitors center, the procedure is similar to our Social Security Offices; take a number and wait for the first available assistant to help you.

     With my map in hand, I began walking. This is the parliament building for the Quebec Province; currently being refurbished, to be completed in 2019.

Beautiful brownstone rowhomes . . .

     And as is typical in France, buildings are built with bridges for traffic; probably initially for horse and buggies and now vehicles. 

There were many horse and buggy vendors.

     I was impressed with this horse and buggy because the horse patiently parallel parked, back and forth one step at a time, until it was aligned to the curb. The horse got a sugar cube as a reward.

More sights . . .

A restaurant with open windows . . .

     By now, I was getting weary of the very touristy city. I took refuge at the Notre Dame Basilique and reflected on all the vendors hawking their wares.

     Fortunately I had a Plan B. I had brought my bathing suit and towel. Back at the visitors center where I again took another number, I was informed where the indoor swimming pool was located. Turns out, just walking to the indoor pool was a godsend. I got further away from the tourists and began to enjoy the city.

Not sure what some of these official buildings are . . .

     Most had signs explaining what it was, but I noticed that if it was a provincial building (Quebec Province), the sign was in French only. If it was a national building, the sign was in French and English.

This was an 18th century monastery and now a college of architect studies.

     This stone marks the burial location of our General Richard Montgomery. If you want to know how and why our American general is buried here (at the request of his descendants, his remains were left in Canada), click here for his fascinating life story.

     It was here at this stone, that I met Gail and her daughter Margaret from St. John, New Brunswick. What was remarkable about meeting them was Gail's knowledge of the War of 1812 (putting me to shame), and Margaret's recent completion of the Ironman competition at Mont Tremblant. Last summer my sister, her hubby and I were in Mont Tremblant a few weeks before this very popular annual competition was held so I was familiar with it. Margaret swam 2.4 miles in a cold lake, biked 112 miles in hilly terrain, and ran 26.2 miles! in 10 hours and 59 minutes!

     My feet were pretty tired by mid-afternoon. I packed my lunch, and was enjoying my lunch and watching people while sitting on a park bench. Donated my apple to this friendly horse.

The city is very hilly . . .

Took the funicular down the hill to the ferry port.

     On the other side of the river at the ferry dock is a water fountain park.

Kids having fun.

I enjoyed Quebec City (and a swim) for one day, too.

Monday, August 22, 2016

When the Saint Lawrence River becomes the Gulf of Saint Lawrence

     After spending two days at Forillon National Park which is located at the tip of Canada's Gaspe Peninsula, I took one last parting photo. The name "forillon", by the way, was a description penned by Frenchman Jacques Cartier in 1534 when he sailed around the peninsula. It roughly means standing rocks that have tumbled.

     Instead of taking the very busy touristy Route 132 back to the mainland, I went back to the town of Gaspe at the peaceful hospital parking lot . . .

. . . so I could get an early start in the morning to drive on the inland mountain road that would eventually meet up with Route 132. It was a wonderful drive. I was almost the sole vehicle on this 82-mile mountainous stretch. The closer I got to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the foggier it got.

This 82 mile stretch has only one town, a company town of sorts.

     Murdochville, started by Mr. Murdoch of course, is a mining town. From raw ore, pure copper anode is produced. Their town's statue is a good one.

     When I joined up with Route 132, there were constant wonderful views of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.

     For no reason at all, I spent the night downtown Rimouski, a large town with a lot of activity, plus a bike and pedestrian promenade along the Gulf which beckoned me. A local man there told me I could park all night downtown. When I woke up early Sunday morning, I took advantage of the sleepy-eyed town and began a bike tour on the promenade along the Gulf. Even the seagulls were still sleeping.

On the Gulf is a marshy protected area for wildlife.

     I rode by a closed museum that tells the story of the disastrous sinking of the Empress of Ireland in 1914 when 1,012 people died in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. I liked their statue in the front.

     Also rode by this submarine (closed when I was there), named "Onondaga" (click here for link telling the interesting story).

     I'm not big on lighthouses, but this one (built in 1867) has an interesting story. Click here for story. The part of the story I like is the fact that at this point, navigation on this body of water is both river and sea navigation. It's sort of the turning point from the Saint Lawrence River to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.

     After the enjoyable bike ride, I reluctantly joined up with the tourists again on Route 132 only to be easily distracted in a short while by some water activity going on in the Gulf. Turns out, a group of kayakers are assembling and are waiting for the tide to come in.

     So I played a few games of chess while waiting for the tide and eventually joined them. I paddled around these rocky islands in the distance. It was nice, but no wildlife was seen.

Back on the road again . . .

I'm now beginning to see the north side of the river.

And the weather is fickle here, too.

Sprinkle or two . . . wildflowers love it.

Interesting rocky islands in the river.

     Notice the crops? Route 132 lies between the river, a stretch of farmland with crops and dairy farms, and a mountain range on the other side. It was a wonderfully scenic drive, and since the tourists were now on the National Highway 20 (high speed lanes), I now had Route 132 to myself most of the time.

     Have been enjoying driving 25 mph through all the little cute villages on Route 132, most of which have an old church with two tall steeples. Reminds me of French country villages when I was in France a couple years ago. Here's a few shots of the colorful cottages.

     While there are lots of muted pastel painted cottages, it seems half are muted and the other half are painted a vivid color. Probably reflects its citizens, half want to blend in un-noticed and the other half want to stand out in the crowd.

I'm not in a big hurry to leave this area by the way. Has everything I love to do, hiking, paddling, biking . . . .