Earlier in the year, Fosters and I decided to sign up for an eastern Canadian rail journey thru a tour company called Fresh Tracks. The journey consisted of arriving in Montreal on September 24 and exploring the city until departure on Friday, the 27th, via rail to Quebec City; departure via overnight rail from Quebec City to Halifax on September 29 with arrival in Halifax on Sunday the 30th where we spent 3 nights before departing for home on October 3rd. For ease of entry and remembering, I will break this blog into three categories based on where we were exploring.
Montreal: The arrival into Montreal was uneventful and I was meet by a limousine service who took me to the Le Place D’Armes Hotel. Fosters were significantly delayed in Salt Lake and arrived at the hotel approximately 5 hours late. We spent the first day exploring Montreal on our own; walked waterfront of Old Port and took the Observation Wheel which is Canada’s tallest structure providing us with panoramic views 60 meters in the air. After our ride, we continued to explore the Old Port area, had lunch at Brewskey Pub, and explored shops on the way back to our lodging. That evening we had dinner at Bonaparte Restaurant which is considered one of the premier restaurants in Old Montreal serving French cuisine. On day 3, we were part of a small group 6 hour tour which provided us with Montreal’s history, architecture and culture. We took in Notre-Dame Basilica, Old Montreal, Farmer’s Market where we had a lunch of poutines (a Canadian dish made up of french fries, cheese curds, and gravy), Downtown, St. Joseph’s Oratory, and Plateau Mont-Royal for a spectacular view of the city. That evening we had dinner at Brasserie 701 which was located close to our hotel. The next morning we had some time before departing late morning for the train station so we had breakfast at Cora’s Kitchen which Fosters were interested in because they have a granddaughter named Cora. Our transfer was made to the train station where we departed around 12:45; a 3-course meal with complimentary wine was served for lunch in the dining car. Upon arrival in Quebec City, we were transferred by private car to our hotel for the next 3 nights called Hotel 71.
Quebec City: Our first morning in Quebec City had us scheduled for a private walking tour of Old Quebec City at 10:00. At least part of the tour was walking in rain which did not help the cold I was fighting. Our guide covered much history of the city along with pointing out architecture; we went from lower town to upper town via the funicular. We saw such sites as Ursuline Convent, City Hall, and the courtyard of the Seminary surrounded by several beautiful churches. What started out a decent tour started to degrade due to the weather plus the tour guide had a very monotone voice which caused me to lose interest in what she was saying and we cut the tour short. After the tour, we found a pharmacy where I purchased cold medicine. We found a place for lunch at a pub down the street from the pharmacy. After eating, we ventured into some shops for browsing. The next day, we had a tour scheduled of the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac so we located the starting point for the tour, walked around the Terrasse Dufferin which is a terrace that wraps around the hotel from the northeast to the southeast overlooking the St. Lawrence River, and then we headed back down to the lower town via the 30 sets of stairs that link upper to lower. On the way down, we had dinner at St. Patrick Restaurant/Pub. The next morning, we walked back to the starting point of our scheduled tour of the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac which is one of the most photographed hotels in Canada. It is a luxury hotel that was built in the late 19th century by William Van Horne, General Manager of Canadian Pacific Railway. The father of Emily Post, Bruce Price from New York was retained as the architect and he drew on the Middle Ages and Renaissance architectural styles in his design. It was a very enjoyable tour which everyone enjoyed. We spent our last afternoon in Quebec City exploring on our own. That evening we had a four course dinner at the Restaurant Aux Anciens Canadiens which is located in the historic Maison Jacquet, one of the largest houses in upper town and the oldest in Quebec being built in 1675. After dinner, we checked out of our lodging and was driven to the rail station for an overnight train to Halifax. There was an hour delay with the train arrival; once aboard, I was escorted to my cabin where I immediately fell into bed. Next morning, I met up with the Fosters in the dining car for breakfast. Most of the car was spent in the observation car with our leaving for lunch early afternoon. The overall train experience seemed long. Upon arrival in Halifax, we were driven to the Lord Nelson Hotel which was our lodging for the next three nights. Dinner was at The Arms Public House close to the hotel.
Halifax: After breakfast, we ventured our way to the Marriott Harbourfront which was our meeting place for a Wine and Gourmet Lunch tour. The 6 to 7 hour tour consisted of our visiting three award winning Nova Scotia wineries in the Annapolis Valley. We had a tour and tasting at Benjamin Bridge Winery, tasting and lunch with wine at Luckett Vineyards (the lunch was delicious!) overlooking Minas Basin fed by the Bay of Fundy, and the third tasting at Gaspereau Vineyards. There was a total of 9 on this tour and it was a very fun experience! After the tour, we explored the boardwalk which was not as interesting as I thought it would be; there really was not much along it except tourist “traps”. We stopped at The Arms Public House for a drink and then walked to the Rock Bottom Brewery for our evening meal. The next morning we were picked up by our own driver for a 4-5 hour tour to Peggy’s Cove and surrounding area. Peggy Cove’s is a
small rural community located on the eastern shore of St. Margarets Bay in Nova Scotia’s Halifax Regional Municipality, and is the site of Peggys Point Lighthouse built in 1868. It was a very windy day but that did not prevent us from exploring the entire village including walking out on the rocks surrounding the lighthouse for a look inside and hoping to see the gallery of sculptor/painter William E. deGarthe; however, the gallery was not opened but outside of it is a carved granite outcropping of 100 ft. sculpture by deGarthe as a monument to honor the Nova Scotian fishermen. We left the village and stopped at Swissair Flight 111 memorial; on September 2, 1998, this flight crashed into St. Margaret’s Bay approximately five miles east of Peggy’s Cove with the loss of all 229 aboard. The cove became one of the staging areas for First Responders that were involved in the search and rescue response, crash recovery operation, and investigation of the crash. This was a very somber experience. Our driver took us back to the hotel where we went across the street and walked thru the Halifax Public Gardens. Our evening meal was at The Henry House. Since we were being picked up at 4:15 a.m. for our trip to the airport, we had an early evening.
Our Canada trip came to an end on October 3rd when we boarded United flight 5631 for Chicago at 6:45 a.m. The trip of Eastern Canada was interesting, time passed quickly, and all the people we encountered where friendly and helpful.