Thursday, July 21, 2016

Chapter 29 - Quebec City to Montreal

July 20th, Day 54: Today we drove the mostly straight, mostly flat Trans-Canada highway southwest from Quebec City to a KOA campground located just outside the City of Montreal. The drive took us around three hours. Our views were of pretty farmlands but nothing really special, especially when comparing it with our recent travels through the Maritime Provinces. We talked during the drive about our recent visit to Old Quebec City and how we both agreed that probably nowhere during our drive back to Florida would we see anything that could match such an experience. Perhaps this feeling is why we only booked two nights in Montreal. Has the best come and gone? Since it was just past noon before we were all hooked up at our new campsite, it was agreed that we would not drive into Montreal until tomorrow morning.

Our campsite was really quite nice (they even had their own Eiffel Tower) and we had some shopping to do and taking the afternoon off from being tourists was not a bad idea even thought it meant that we were allocating only one day to visit Canada's second largest city and like Quebec City, one of its oldest. We justified this short visit to this beautiful city by recalling that we had briefly visited Montreal back in 2004. It is possible however, that our real reason may be that we just needed to slow down a bit. Today is after all, our 54th day on the road. It was warm and sunny and we enjoyed the afternoon and early evening relaxing under our awning. We went to bed fairly early.

July 21, Day 55: Despite the possibility that we might run into heavy traffic driving into Montreal just before 8 am, we did it anyway. We ran into heavy traffic just before crossing the bridge over the St. Lawrence River into Montreal and it was stop and go for the next half hour before we finally found our parking ramp. Our underground parking ramp was under or adjacent (hard to tell) to the beautiful Hotel de Saint-James (shown in the photo) and before we could even find a parking space we found ourselves seven floors below street level, which I figured was at least 80 to 90 feet underground.  No wonder tourists take tour buses into big cities. We had to walk up to the street since we did not recognize that the sign stating "Ascenseur" was directing us to the elevator. Dumb Americans. No wonder that my knee was hurting later in the morning.

Our parking ramp fortunately was located close to most of the major attractions in what is known as Old Montreal. Like Quebec, Montreal is a very old city originally founded by the French in 1642. The old part of the city also like Quebec, was originally surrounded by stone fortress walls although beginning in the year 1804 they started removing the stone walls which today are entirely gone.
Our first stop of the day and perhaps even the highlight of our visit to Montreal, was a visit to the famous Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal. Construction of this church masterpiece began in 1824.
It is the interior of the church that is perhaps the reason that hundreds of thousands of visitors are willing to pay a compulsory donation of $5.00 to enter the church interior. It was well worth the donation. Kathy and I both toured the interior of the church, separately of course, since Cabo was denied entry. This is only one of the many photographs that were taken inside this awesome structure.  Many years ago Kathy and I visited St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican in Rome and while it was many times larger, we do not recall it's interior as having such a colorful and inspiring appearance as in the Notre-Dame Basilica.
The plaza out in front of the church contained a statute of the founder of Montreal, a man by the name of Paul de Chomedey. The statue was set in place in the year 1895.
Across the plaza from the Notre-Dame Basilica was another old building that houses the Bank of Montreal. The building was originally built back in 1847. The Bank of Montreal is said to be the oldest bank in Canada. Now this is where you want to go if you want to borrow (Canadian) money.
Our next visit only a few blocks away was to another even larger plaza known as Place Jacques-Cartier. This plaza often offers a spot for local artists to sell their crafts although today there were few artists present probably because it was a workday and they need regular jobs to earn money. The plaza was lined with lovely outdoor restaurants.
At the upper end of the plaza was Montreal's old city hall constructed back between 1872 and 1878. One of the very special things that separates the beauty of Old Quebec City and the beauty of Old Montreal, is that here in Montreal many of their old buildings are huge. This size differential allows us not to want to compare these two cities. They are both wonderful places to visit and frankly both are so much more beautiful than any of our older cities in the United States. The American talent of tearing down and building new is not always a positive attribute.
At this point Kathy and I had walked at least a mile (Cabo maybe 10 feet) and my poor knee was starting to hurt, so we decided to head back to our car. On the way back we walked along the waterfront and while there were huge docks, it appeared that all of the ships including the frequent visiting cruise liners were not in port. This photo to the left which was taken along the Rue de la Commune which runs along the waterfront, shows buildings that were also built in the mid-1800s. Preservation is the key.
On our return walk we followed some back streets which were suggested by our tourist guide book. It seemed that once we got off the larger streets and on to more narrow one-way streets the quality of the stores improved. Less tourist junk. This would seem to be contradictory to logic but we noticed the same thing was happening in Old Quebec City.
On our return walk we sat down frequently but fortunately, Old Montreal gave us lots of opportunities to just sit back and enjoy the scenery.  We were also in no hurry to leave Old Montreal because we knew that what faced us in the near future was another horrible traffic jam getting out of the city.
As we neared our parking ramp we again passed the Notre-Dame Basilica but this time approaching it from the rear.  We had to take one final photograph of this wonderful structure.

We left Montreal in the early afternoon in a traffic nightmare as expected. All of the road construction going on everywhere also did not help as our poor Garmin GPS was horribly confused.  We returned however to our campground very pleased with our visit to Montreal.  We know that we missed a lot of sights here in this city but when you are traveling like we do, we need to expect that we just do not have the time to become experts on every place that we visit.

Tomorrow we are headed back through the 1000 Islands area of the St. Lawrence River and back into the United States. It occurred to Kathy that we still had around $40 Canadian money in our possession, so, knowing that it would be foolish to return to the US with Canadian money, she decided to . . . .


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