St. Lawrence Seaway and Montréal: Part II

Wednesday, September 16th: We got ready for the day and went to breakfast. Our tour called “Percé, Bonaventure Island & Percé Rock” was not gathering until 11:00 a.m. so we had plenty of time. The ship arrived at Gaspé about 10:30; again, because of larger ships, we used the tender to go ashore. Gaspé is a city at the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula in eastern Québec, Canada. But we were not touring Gaspé; we boarded the bus and rode along 60 miles of rugged cliffs and sweeping bays. We saw panorama views of the Bay of Gaspé, the cliffs of Forillon National Park, and the legendary rock. We arrived in Percé and boarded a boat for a cruise around both sides of Percé Rock and then on to see the largest gannet colony in the world where thousands of birds nest on the cliffs of Bonaventure Island. Naturalists consider Bonaventure’s colony one of the most important and accessible colony of its kind in the world.

House on the cliff

House on the cliff

Town of Perce

Town of Perce

Perce Rock

Perce Rock

Lots of gannets

Lots of gannets

Enjoying the ride

Enjoying the ride

Water flowing down

Water flowing down

Many seals

Many seals

Face of chief crying but in the shadow

Face of chief crying but in the shadow

When we returned to shore, we had a couple hours to explore the town on our own. Ginni, Karen, and I had lunch at La Maison du Pêcheur; I had an excellent bowl of vegetable soup. In one of the shops, I found a lightweight, cotton pullover top which will go well with my black slacks. The weather was beautiful with sunny, clear skies so walking was quite enjoyable. We made our way back to the ship where we retired to our suite until dinner time. After looking at our tickets for tomorrow’s tour, we discovered we had signed up for the wrong tour so we went to the Square before heading for dinner at the Colonnade. The woman at the tour desk said she would have to get back to us because it was over the deadline to cancel. We proceeded on to the restaurant where French cuisine was featured. I had French onion soup for my appetizer and we split the seared Black Sea bass fillet and “Châteaubriand” roast beef tenderloin for our main course. The excellent meal was completed by Creme Brûlée for dessert. Upon returning to the Square, we were told we would receive a full refund for the tour which made us both happy because we did not expect to get a full refund. We went to The Club on our deck where Chris Bartlett was playing guitar melodies for our nightcap. Went back to our suite where got ready for bed; lights were out about 11:30.

Thursday, September 17th: I got up around 7:30, showered, dressed, and typed up my notes from yesterday’s activity. By that time, Ginni was up and ready to go. We went to Colonnade for breakfast. Spent the rest of the morning in our suite preparing for our day and reading/sending emails. Since we were exploring Baie-Comeau, Canada on our own we had plenty of time. This town is about 250 miles north of Québec City, and is on the banks of the Mancouagan and St. Lawrence Rivers. The town was founded in 1936; it has over 20,000 people and is a hub for logging in the area. Former Canadian Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, spent his childhood here. Because of the low water level by the dock, we had to once again anchor and take tenders to shore. There is a bike path that goes into town and we were going to walk it but it started to drizzle rain when we got to the dock so rode a free bus shuttle. By the time we started to explore downtown, the drizzle had stopped and the sun was shining. We went into all the stores in the area; everything was a good quality but nothing we were looking for except at one place of a local artist where I purchased a gift item. We ran into Ginger, another person from the ship. She was headed to St. Amélie’s Church so we tagged along. This church was built in 1937 by Robert Rutherford McCormick, founder of the town, for his first wife Amélie. She did not live to see it finished. The Church features pink granite of Québec’s North Shore and has 16,000 square feet of fresco paintings, 30 stained-glass windows representing characters from the Bible, and a magnificent Casavant organ. It was a very interesting tour provided by a volunteer with much knowledge. After the tour, I decided to find the bike trail for a walk back to the dock while Ginni and Ginger took the shuttle.

City center with fountain and mural

City center with fountain and mural

Inside front of the church

Inside front of the church

Rear view of the church

Rear view of the church

Outside the church

Outside the church

Scene on the walking trail

Scene on the walking trail

Got to the dock just as the tender was coming in; Ginni joined me and we returned to the ship. Had lunch at the Patio Grill by the pool area. It turned out to by a beautiful day with clear skies and warm temperatures. After talking to Mike and Liz by poolside, I took another couple more turns around Deck 5 in order to get more exercise which I have been quite bad about on this trip. Spent the rest of our afternoon on our veranda reading and updating my notes.  After getting dressed for dinner, we went to the lounge and caught an early performance by the female members of the Seabourn Quest singers.  Because of the lateness of the hour, we were seated at our own table in the Main Restaurant so no new people to meet and converse with.  Went back to our suite and prepared for bed with lights out around 10:30.

Friday, September 18th: We were at Saguenay, Canada today.

Cruising toward Saguenay

Cruising toward Saguenay

Approaching Saguenay

Approaching Saguenay

The relatively small and concentrated Lac St-Jean area where the city is located can be described as an isolated “oasis” in the middle of the vast remote wilderness of Northern Quebec. This province is most noted for Rivière Saguenay fjord, where a dramatic, towering canyon ploughs northwest from the St Lawrence, ranking it as the province’s most beautiful area. The 100km river, fed by Lac St-Jean, stretches from north of Chicoutimi to the village of Tadoussac. From its dark waters rise majestic cliffs up to 500m high. Formed during the last Ice Age, the fjord is the most southerly one in the northern hemisphere. We signed up for the tour called “The Best of Saguenay” which was 4 hours in length; that proved to be too short of time because we were rushed at every place. We took a scenic drive through La Baie to the Saguenay Fjord Museum where we learned about the importance of the waterway that is deeply chiseled through the Laurentian Mountains. We passed by the Ha Ha Pyramid which was constructed after the great flood of 1996 that devastated the region. The pyramid itself is constructed entirely out of 3000 stacked, triangular “yield” road signs, complete with reflective surface. The interior of the structure features a staircase that leads to a scenic viewing level near the top of the pyramid; however, we did not stop because of time restaints. We visited the Touverre Workshop where the artist demonstrated the art of glass blowing by making us a hummingbird. Glass blowing is one of the oldest form of art and one of the most difficult to master.

Inside of fjord museum

Inside of fjord museum

Making glass hummingbird

Making glass hummingbird

Ha Ha Pyramid

Ha Ha Pyramid

At Arthur Villeneuve’s Place we saw the barber/painter’s impressive frescoes that cover almost every square inch of his house. And then we stopped at the Le Chevrier du Nord Goat Farm where a small family farm specializes in the breeding of angora goats and the non-industrial fabrication of mohair garments.

Angora goats

Angora goats

Bags of goat hair

Bags of goat hair

Spooling the hair

Spooling the hair

Finished product

Finished product

A wall inside Villeneuve's house

A wall inside Villeneuve’s house

Old pulp mill

Old pulp mill

Back to the terminal we went. Ginni and I decided to have lunch ashore so we had a bowl of French Onion soup at Bistro Victoria. After a walk along the trail by the water, we looked at various stalls of merchandise inside the terminal and found a place that makes delicious gelato ice cream.

Along the trail to the ship

Along the trail to the ship

View as we are walking

View as we are walking

Finally, a tree with leaves changing color

Finally, a tree with leaves changing color

Boarded the ship and relaxed in our suite until time to attend a conversation by Ambassador Bob Callahan about how terrorists, missionaries, feminists, and environmentalists have changed the world stage. We had dinner in the main restaurant with Karen and Paul.

Dinner with Karen and Paul

Dinner with Karen and Paul

Listened to the Seabourn Quest Singers in the Grand Salon for about 30 minutes and the returned to our suite where we got ready for bed after a great day/evening. The weather was perfect with sunny skies and 83°. Tomorrow we will dock at Québec City where we will spend two days.

Saturday, September 19th: This morning we docked at Québec City where we spent the next two nights. The historic district of Old Québec is comprised of lower and upper town with fortification walls, gates, and ramparts of the old city. It was founded in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain, and served as the capital of New France until the British conquest in 1760. After a leisurely breakfast, we ventured into the town. What a walk straight up some hills in order to get to a shopping area. We went into many stores as we worked our way back down the hills to the shuttle bus area. I did manage to purchase a t-shirt for myself in one shop.

Looking at docking area; notice our ship

Looking at docking area; notice our ship

Walking down one street

Walking down one street

Back to the ship where we had lunch, went to our suite to pick up our stuff, and headed out for a tour called “Historic Walk with Horse & Carriage Ride”. However, due to the warm weather, they discontinued use of the horses so we had walking only. We walked to the heart of the Lower Town, site of the first settlement of Québec, the Place Royal which is a beautifully restored market square typical 17th and 18th century stone architecture. Once home to wealthy merchants, the square is also home to North America’s oldest standing Catholic Church, Notre-Dame-des-Victoires. Next we took a funicular ride to the Upper Town where we saw the castle-like Le Château Frontenac and Dufferin Terrace, one of the best known landmarks in Québec. At this stage, we were at a high point and had a spectacular view of the St. Lawrence River, the Île d’Orléans, and the Laurentian Mountains. Next we discovered Artists Alley, Basilique Notre-Dame, Holy Trinity Cathedral, and the Québec Seminary.

Artists Alley

Artists Alley

Inside Notre-Dame-des-Victoires

Inside Notre-Dame-des-Victoires

Holy Trinity

Holy Trinity

Murals painted on side of buildings

Murals painted on side of buildings

The funicular

The funicular

Chateau Frontenac

Chateau Frontenac

Center courtyard of seminary

Center courtyard of seminary

Because of the draw bridge being up for most of the afternoon, the shuttle buses were not on regular schedule so we ended up walking back to the ship instead of riding.

Drawbridge up

Drawbridge up

Why the drawbridge was up all day

Why the drawbridge was up all day

Overall, Ginni and I have walked over 14K steps today so our feet were ready for a rest. We decided we needed a “veg out” night so we stayed on our veranda and had room service bring our evening meal to us. Temperature was warm and it was neat to see the skyline of Québec light up as the sun disappeared below the horizon.

Sun going down

Sun going down

Skyline of Quebec at night

Skyline of Quebec at night

Because of having an early tour in the morning, we ordered our breakfast to be delivered to the room. Lights out about 11:00 pm.

Sunday, September 20th: Got up before 7:00; while Ginni was in the shower, our breakfast was delivered. Once both of us was ready for the day, we sat down for our meal. After our meal, we got all the stuff we wanted to take on the tour gathered and headed for the bus. The tour was labeled “Countryside of Québec & the Sugar Shack” with guide Richard. We enjoyed the French Canada’s spectacular countryside as we drove into the foothills of the Laurentian Mountains to the Lac-Beauport area. First stop was at the shoreline of the lake for a photo opportunity.

From one side of shore to the other

From one side of shore to the other

Another view of Lac-Beauport

Another view of Lac-Beauport

Next we arrived at Montmorency Falls which is 1 1/2 times as high as Niagara Falls as it cascades down a 272-foot cliff. Before experiencing the falls, we had morning coffee and pastries at the elegant Montmorency Manor which is perched at the top of the falls. Before taking a cable ride to the bottom of the falls, Ginni and I shopped in the gift shop and walked the wooden platform to the falls where I took some pictures. At the bottom, it was clear where the water of the Montmorency River roars down the cliff to eventually meet the St. Lawrence River.

Montmorency Manor

Montmorency Manor

Falls from walking trail

Falls from walking trail

Stairs going down on the other side of the falls

Stairs going down on the other side of the falls

Montmorency River meets the St. Lawrence

Montmorency River meets the St. Lawrence

From the bottom of the falls

From the bottom of the falls

Enjoying the view

Enjoying the view

As we left the area, we stopped briefly at the little fall known as Bridal Falls named for a woman who was to be married but lost her fiancé to battle so she went over the falls in her wedding dress. Next we drove across the bridge to the Île d’Orléans (Island of Orleans) with its picturesque villages, and farmland. As we passed the tip of the island, we saw the beautiful 19-century resort homes of Québec’s merchant class and the fantastic views of Québec City skyline. We visited an authentic sugar shack where we learned about the production of maple products and were able to sample the sweet maple taffy.

The sugar shack

The sugar shack

Spigot in sugar maple tree with pail to 'catch' sap

Spigot in sugar maple tree with pail to ‘catch’ sap

Maple taffy

Maple taffy

Of course, there was enough time to visit their gift shop before loading the bus and heading back to the ship. Once we arrived at the pier, Ginni and I took our stuff to our suite and then had lunch at the Colonnade. After lunch, we checked our emails and while Ginni took a nap, I went for a walk and read. Since this is our last day on board, we got our luggage packed and ready for pick up.

View of Chateau Frontenac from the ship

View of Chateau Frontenac from the ship

We had a glass of wine in one of the bars before heading for dinner. We had packed all our dress clothes so we were meeting Mike and Liz for dinner in a more casual environment at the Colonnade. Dinner was filled with great food and constant conversation; an excellent way to spend our last dinner on board. Headed back to our suite, set the alarm for early rise, and went to bed.

Monday, September 21st:  Got dressed for the day; we headed to the Colonnade for breakfast and lingered over coffee until our group was called for departure from the ship.

Morning view of Montreal shoreline

Morning view of Montreal shoreline

Disembarked, found our luggage in the terminal, and got in line for a taxi to take us to our home for the next two nights, the Hilton Garden Inn in central Montréal. Arrived at the hotel; it was too early to get into our room so we had our luggage stored, and talked to the consignee about possible tours. Signed up for a Gray Line motor coach tour “Heart of Montréal” for the afternoon. We also arranged for a limo and driver to take us outside of Montréal the next day. By the time we received and sent back the form with credit card information for the limo company, it was getting close to the time the bus was to pick us up for the afternoon tour so we journeyed down the street to a cafe that fixed us a panini and salad to go. Bus picked us up and we headed to the tour company office where we paid for the tour. Our driver/tour guide was known as Richard and he provided us with information on all the areas of Montréal; it is the largest city in Québec. Predominantly French-speaking, it’s set on an island in the Saint Lawrence River and named after Mt. Royal, the triple-peaked hill at its heart. Its 19 boroughs, many of which were once independent cities; we drove by such places as Bank of Montréal, Biosphere, Saint Helen’s Island, City Hall, and went into many of the boroughs. We had photo stops at Old Montréal and Notre Dame Basillica, Saint Joseph’s Oratory, Olympic Stadium, and Mont Royal lookout for a magnificant view of Montréal.

One street of Old Montreal

One street of Old Montreal

Notre-Dame Basillica

Notre-Dame Basillica

Quebec Bank Bldg. established 1818

Quebec Bank Bldg. established 1818

Biosphere

Biosphere

Saint Helen's Island from the bus

Saint Helen’s Island from the bus

Olympic Stadium

Olympic Stadium

Saint Joseph's Oratory

Saint Joseph’s Oratory

View from Mont Royal

View from Mont Royal

The bus delivered us back to our hotel and we were able to get into our room. Minimal unpacking was completed and we set out to find a restaurant close by for dinner. Upon the recommendation at the front desk, we walked to Caffe E Cucina which is a bistro located a couple doors down from the hotel. The food was excellent and the owners very friendly. At the hotel, we stopped in the bar for a night cap and were appalled at the what we had to pay for a very minimal quantity. One thing we discovered quite quickly was the prices in the restaurant and bar of this hotel were double those of the surrounding facilities. Up to our room where we had lights out by 11:00.

Tuesday, September 22nd: Our limo and driver were going to pick us up at 9:30 so we had time for a leisurely breakfast. We found La Crêpe 2 Go, a snug spot right around the corner from our hotel where the owner whipped up crêpes for breakfast. Moe, our driver for the day, picked us up and we were off. Our destination was Mont-Tremblant which is a year-round resort in the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec, about 80 miles northwest of Montréal. It is best known as a ski destination, but also features Lake Tremblant suitable for swimming and two golf courses in the summer months. The name of the mountain, Mont Tremblant, was derived from the local Algonquin natives, who called it the “trembling mountain.” The summit is at an elevation of 2,871 feet which makes it one of the tallest peaks in the Laurentians. We had spectacular views as we drove through country lanes that criss-cross the scenic landscape.

Village center from the lift

Village center from the lift

One of the ski runs plus condos

One of the ski runs plus condos

Looking up the street at Mont-Tremblant village

Looking up the street at Mont-Tremblant village

Ginni with our driver

Ginni with our driver

Surrounding countryside

Surrounding countryside

After spending time at the resort, we got back into the limo and headed for Saint-Sauveur; it turned out that our driver was taking us to an outlet mall for shopping. This was not something Ginni and I wanted to do so we found a place for lunch called Cage Aux Sports where we  split a sandwich and salad. Upon completion of lunch, we located our driver and asked him to drop us off at Old Montréal, a part of downtown Montréal that has been preserved in much of its original state, with the oldest buildings dating back to the 1600’s. We walked the boulevards and went through some of their stores but everything came across as junk and touristy so we grabbed a taxi back to the hotel. Since we had to get up quite early in the morning for departure to the airport, I took a shower before we went to dinner. Dinner was at Bellagio Ristorante, which served classic Italian veal, seafood & pasta dishes, and was located a couple blocks from our lodging. Both of us ordered one of the veal dishes and it was excellent!

At Bellagio Ristorante

At Bellagio Ristorante

Returned to the hotel where we packed our bags and got ready for bed.

Wednesday, September 23rd: Because we go through US Customs at Montréal’s airport, we wanted to be there two hours early. Got up, dressed, checked out, and grabbed a taxi to the airport at 4:30 a.m. our time. There was no problem with checking in, going through security, and Customs. Did some shopping at the tax-free store conveniently located after Customs; every person had to walk through this area. There was no United lounge so we found a place to get a cup of coffee while waiting for our plane to board. No problem with the flight into Chicago; upon arrival there, we found a United lounge where we had a bowl of vegetable soup and cheese/crackers for lunch. My flight was scheduled to leave about a half hour before Ginni’s so we said our “good byes” and I headed to my departure gate. Got at the gate just as they were boarding first class so there was no waiting around. Flight into Cedar Rapids got in about 15 minutes early but Joe and Mary were there to pick me up. Retrieved my luggage, loaded it into their car, and we headed to Target so I could purchase some grocery items for home. Arrived home and was greeted at the door by Beauty and Cutie.

In summary, it was a good trip and I saw some beautiful country. The only negative is we should of departed on the adventure two weeks later in order to see the leaves change their colors but that did not take away from my overall opinion of a great trip!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.