Tuesday, November 27, 2018

East Coast Cruising - Quebec City

September brought a cruise to the East Coast for Annette and I. We started in New York, visited two cities in Maine, then sailed over the International Boundary into Canada and visited several cities in the Maritime region. The cruise ended in Quebec City and we ended our holidays after spending time in Montreal.

Quebec City is one of the gems of Canada. In the old section of town located by the St. Lawrence River many of the old buildings are still standing. These buildings date back 200 - 350 years and are built in the European style. This lends an aura of Old Europe to the Lower and Upper Town sections.

Standing on the bluff above the river, Chateau Frontenac opened its doors in 1893 and has commanded the scene ever since.
Built by Canadian Pacific Railway as one of their destination resort hotels for the rich and famous, she retains her majestic to this day.

As CPR built the railway across Canada they were awarded huge land grants as incentive to build the railway. 
On the prime land they constructed mega hotels and marketed the resorts to the rich adventurer whom loved discovering the "rougher" side of the world. The elite class could travel from a "chateau" in Toronto, to Montreal, to Banff National Park in Alberta to Victoria on thew West Coast,  enjoying the scenery while ensconced in the luxurious train cars as you travelled between Grand Hotels.
Ahh, there's nothing like being rich.  

Quebec City was the last port of call for our cruise but in a bit of a rare move the cruise line had us booked for the night on the ship and we were to disembark the next day. 
This allowed us two full days to tour the historic Lower Town and Upper Town, as well as visit the the Quebec Citadel. a functioning Canadian military fort.

Right across the street from our ship was Lower Town, so we didn't have far to go to start our tourist thing.
Samuel de Champlain founded the city in 1608 as a fortified city surrounded by fortress walls. de Champlain was an accomplished individual. Known as the Father of New France, to his credit he was an explorer, a cartographer, a drafts man, a soldier, a geographer, an ethnologist, a diplomat and a chronicler. He explored and settled the Quebec area,as well as charted the Great Lakes.

As I mentioned earlier, Quebec has done a fantastic job of keeping their stock of heritage buildings, and the future generations are rewarded by the forefather's foresight. In the picture above is the foundation and location of the oldest know building. While the building itself was torn down many years ago, the location is one of the early hubs of the Quebec.

All of the tourists shops are located in Lower Town, while Upper Town holds the restaurants, hotels, Chateau Frontenac and The Quebec Citadel 

We made the rounds of the shops and then opted to take the set of stairs that leads from one level to another. I wanted to try the funicular for a couple of bucks, but NOHHH, someone said we had to walk up the stairs.  

This was our hotel and indicative of the old buildings that still permeate the top of the bluff that holds Upper Town.

We walked around the edge of the city and came across the outer wall of the fortress city beyond which we could see the modern city complete with office towers crowned with radio and TV antennae.
We use the wall as a turn around point and meandered back through the city stopping enjoy the scents coming from the restaurant doors. 
We spent the day just winding our way through side streets and back alleys enjoying the Europe flavour of it all.
Before long it was time to point our way back to the ship to have our own wonderful meal

The next morning was a bit more chaotic as it was time to disembark from the boat and catch a cab to our hotel. Although the distance was not overly far, carting suitcases, overnight cases, backpacks, and assorted other packs was not high on the list of things I wanted to do.

It was late morning by the time we got to our hotel room and dropped off the bags in the storage area. After that, Annette and I wandered down the street and found a small cafe tucked under the corner wall of the Chateau Frontenac. The late breakfast was wonderful and inexpensive for the location, so we made a date to come back again tomorrow.

In the afternoon Annette and I explored the Quebec Citadel. The citadel is star shaped to be able to protect itself from any angle, and it is buried into the ground, so there is very little for the enemy to shoot at. Consequently obtaining pictures was a bit harder to do. There are some surface buildings of which I used my phone to capture pictures, as my camera battery had died, but they are not as good as I would have hoped for, so ... sorry, no pictures.

Turning our attention to the Grand Dame of the hotelier world, the Chateau Frontenac has built a wide boardwalk along the top of the bluff for their guests to "stroll" and be seen by each other, and by the paparazzi of the day.   

It also afforded a Grand view of our ship and really puts into perspective the size of the ship. The Adventure Of The Seas is the one in front, it is one of Royal Caribbean's mid-size ships. Samuel de Champlain's ships had nothing on modern ocean going vessels !

Our day trip for this port of call took us out of town to Montmorrency Falls and to The Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre

Do you know the difference between a church and a basilica? Neither did I until it was explained. A Basilica is a church with certain privileges conferred by the Pope. In modern terms it is a Vatican approved place of pilgrimage. Hence the royal name of a Basilica.

To be honest, coming from the West Coast I have seen plenty of waterfalls, and after touring Europe several times, a church has been ticked off the must-see box many times, so no cavalcade of pictures of the basilica here.

Back in town we spent our last morning wandering around the Chateau Frontenac lobbies and the inner art store and the fancy gift store. Many beautiful articles of clothing could be purchased in the gift store, and many expensive pieces of modern art could be purchased in the art store.
I opted to be a big spender myself and paid $3.00 for a bottle of water. Hey, I was on Holidays!

By noontime we had caught a taxi down to the train station and were waiting for our 12.30 PM train to take us on our last leg of our journey.
The bustling metropolis of Montreal awaited us, complete with rides on the Metro and a visit to Montreal Olympic Park, built for the 1976 Summer Olympics.

As you may have expected, I posted only a few pictures on this page - the complete set can be found here on my Flickr web site.
After your read, drop me a line and comment on the travelog.  


Monday, November 12, 2018

East Coast Cruising - Charlottetown, P.E.I.

September brought a cruise to the East Coast for Annette and I. We started in New York, visited two cities in Maine, then sailed over the International Boundary into Canada and visited several cities in the Maritime region. The cruise ended in Quebec City and we ended our holidays after spending time in Montreal.

Click on any picture to see all the pictures full size

Our port of call today is Charlottetown, Price Edward Island, or PEI as it is commonly called.
The agenda for today was a bus tour of Charlottetown itself, with the tour then moving into the countryside on the east coast of the island.
The highlights would be "Anne Of Green Gables" and "Cavendish Bay", augmented by the beauty of the rolling hills of PEI.

Charlottetown was incorporated in 1855 with a population of 6,500 under British rule but the history of European settlement goes back to 1720 when French personnel from Fortress Louisburg on Cape Breton Island were ferried to the island which at the time was know as St. John Island.
Occupation swung back and forth between French and British until the British eventually prevailed and Charlottetown became a British city.
Between September 1-8 1864 Charlottetown hosted what is now known as the Charlottetown Conference. Many of the meetings and negotiations held that week wold lead to Canadian Confederation and the birth of Canada as a country.
This information was part of the tour guide's information voice over but to be honest I had to look it up again to get my facts straight. :)

We toured the city of 36,500 seeing the main historical locations before the bus rolled out of town and onto our island coastline tour. 

First stop - lunch ! And when you are in the Maritimes the lunch of choice is - lobster !

The Prince Edward Island Preserve Company makes all their own preserves and jams onsite, and they have a storefront where you can purchase small jars of an infinite variety of mouth watering condiments.

For us, something else was on the agenda. The company had a large banquet hall next to the main building. The sort of place where you could sit at plain tables and just get messy as you let out your inner meanness and grabbed a fresh, large lobster, ripping off it's claws and cracking open its stomach to rip out the meat with a small fork which you then dipped in melted butter and reveled in the taste of the warm smooth meat in your mouth.

Yeah, doesn't sound pretty, or even very nice, but to eat lobster you basically through away your daintiness and manners and your civilized nature and just start ripping and shredding your food like uncouth barbarians. But hey, at least we have those cool white plastic bibs with the lobster on them to show we still have our concerns about getting stains on our clothes.  :)

Funny story, one of those "it's a small world" stories.
The tables held six chairs, we found a table with four chairs open and sat with a couple from the cruise ship whom we had not yet met. As usual; conversation turned to "where are you from" and the other couple stated they were from a small town outside of Toronto. We said we know lots of small towns in Ontario, what's the name? They say Guelph.
We say, one of our son in law comes from Guelph and he lives in Vancouver now. Conversation continues and they ask our son-in-laws name, we tell them, but they do not recognize the name. But they think they recognize his sister's name as it is not a common name. Possibly their sons' cousins might know them.
Jump forward a few hours and YES, Tom's sister knows the boy's cousins from high school!  Ain't that a kick in the head.

We finished off lunch and had a walk around the large area garden on the property the owner maintains as an area of peace for anyone in need, regardless of whether it is a family situation, or a military vet, or a family with a special needs child. The owner goes out of his way to show that someone cares for you. Good stuff !

Back on the bus we cut overland through the island farmland and are treated to rolling hills reminiscent of undulation of the South Prairie regions. Hilltop scenery provided far ranging views over the green of the farm produce, underscored by the red  dirt of the island.

Eventually we made our way to the pride and joy of PEI, the Anne of Green Gables Museum. Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote the novel Anne of Green Gables in 1908 while living in this building and it has become an international sensation to this day.
The site is now a Canadian Historic site with much money spent on the upkeep of the house and outbuildings, with a large visitor centre being constructed to help handle the hundreds of people who come here daily.
Oversea visitors have a special fondness for the book and are excited to visit this piece of original Canadiana they have only read about. The view a visit with an almost reverence like quality which for us Canadians is a bit hard to fathom but appreciate the quality of the moment on their "pilgrimage".

Here are a couple of pictures of the interior of the house, many more can be found on my Flickr site.
Surprisingly the house was fairly large and had many rooms, some with small dimensions but more rooms that I thought there would be.It would seem a large family would not feel cramped during the dreary days of winter.

We wandered through the house and the barn, and enjoyed the sunshine of the sloping front grass area as it reached down towards a creek 300 feet or so at the end of the property. All the while we were thinking - "could I live here, like this"? Probably not, us big city folks are too used to our current day luxury. But back then, this was a pretty darn nice house to live in ....

As a bonus part on the day, Ken and I found a geocache in the woods a few hundred feet away from the House, so we can now add the province of PEI to our list of regions where we have found caches.

If you click on this picture to enlarge it, you will see the red cliffs of Cavendish Bay in stark contrast to the ocean blue. In the distance is famed Cavendish Beach which we unfortunately did not have time to visit.

The red dirt is really just like sand and crumbles easily - each year the winter seas cause a fair amount of erosion of the island's coastline. The locals tell us the best year for them is a cold year as then the bay freezes over and the ice protects the shoreline from the winter storms. More than once the province has had to move highways inland from the coastline as erosion has come to close to the current roadway.

The Cavendish area of PEI is known for the beaches and the farm produce as the sandy soil makes an ideal environment to grow a wide variety of food.
The best known produce to the rest of Canada are the Cavendish potatoes, the other main crops are wheat, oats, barley, and oilseeds. And because I know you just asked yourself "that" question, I will tell you. 
Oilseeds are any plant grown primarily for the oil content of the seed. Soyabeans, sun flowers, and canola are just some of the edible seeds grown. Other seeds like castor and flax are used for industrial purposes.

Back on the bus we had to get along and hurry back to Charlottetown as we were running behind schedule and we would be cutting it very close to sailing time. As it was we ended up being the last bus back and the ship had to wait a few minutes extra for us to get aboard. I swear if we were any slower getting up the ramp to the ship the gangway would have smacked us in the ass as we got on board.  :) 

Once back on the ship we had just enough time to clean up and change before we headed down to the main dining room where a 5 star meal awaited us. For this meal we needed to bring back our daintiness that we disposed of at the lobster lunch and once again be the suave world travelers that the occasion demanded. Yeah, as if...  LOL

Tomorrow is a day at sea as we traverse the Gulf Of St. Lawrence and enter the St. Lawrence Seaway as it narrows into the St. Lawrence River all the while heading for our final port of call - Quebec City.
Quebec City, or as the locals say, Quebec, has the most old buildings that we would see on the trip, and definitely is the one city that provides a taste of Europe in it's architecture and heritage.

If you liked what you read drop me a line and let me know ...

The rest of the PEI pictures, including the PEI Preserve farm and the Anne of Green Gables Museum can be found here on my Flickr site 

Sunday, November 04, 2018

East Coast Cruising - Sydney, Nova Scotia

September brought a cruise to the East Coast for Annette and I. We started in New York, visited two cities in Maine, then sailed over the International Boundary into Canada and visited several cities in the Maritime region. The cruise ended in Quebec City and we ended our holidays after spending time in Montreal.

Click on an picture to see it full size, of course, all the pictures can be seen on my Flickr site. Link is at the end of the story

Day 6 finds us in Sydney, Nova Scotia, one of the oldest provinces in Canada and one of the earliest settled. First, a little background about Nova Scotia, which is Latin for "New Scotland"
Founded in 1621 by Sir William Alexander of Menstrier, who appealed to King James of Scotland that a "New Scotland" was needed to expand national interests alongside New England, New France, and New Spain, Nova Scotia became an ideal territory for early Scottish settlers.
Nearly a century later, after the United Kingdom gained control over the area, there was a massive Scottish immigration spark. Adventurous Highlanders rushed to emigrate from all over Scotland to settle throughout Nova Scotia.
By the mid-1700s, British military officer, general and acting governor of Nova Scotia, Charles Lawrence, invited American New England residents to relocate to Nova Scotia. This was largely due to the expulsion of the Acadians that left large land vacancies and created yet another Scottish population surge.
The new settlers were comprised of Scots that had fled to New England in the last century to gain religious freedom. These descendants formed a major part of the life and development of Nova Scotia and many early residents remain there to this day. 

Sydney is a relatively small town,  with a population of 30,000 or so. The downtown core located a city block up the hillside from the harbour only a few blocks X a few blocks wide. You can easily walk around the old part of town and see the historic buildings that have survived. A few churches and an original Bank Of Montreal building is what we took in on our stroll in the afternoon.

First part of the day was a bus tour of the city and it's outskirts, which took no time at all.  :)
To make up time we were taking to the Jost House Museum, a museum located in a small heritage house built in 1786.
The house originally belonged to a prominent merchant, today is a catch all museum of local history representing everything from local life to the mining industry to the war efforts in WW2  

The small museum was chockablock crammed with everything the locals could gather in their effort to show the public of times gone past.

Even the new Easy automatic washer was here to show the great strides technology had made through the years.   
The company's name was changed from the Syracuse Washing Machine Corporation to the Easy Washing Machine Corporation in 1932, so this washer must be 1932 or newer.

After an hour or so spent touring the museum, we were back on the bus for further touring of the city. One of the high points of the city is near one of the cemeteries, which provides a rare overview of the city and suburbs.

One of our stops was a rejuvenated local park where one of the natural waterways was spruced up to make an inviting neighbourhood park designed for strolling or picnicking.
Seemed like a good place for picture of the two lovebirds.  :)

After the tour we went back on board the ship for a break and to drop off some gear, the we exited the ship and did a walking tour of the downtown area. We did not see a lot of heritage buildings on our walk,perhaps we did not cover enough territory to see more of them. 

In Canada, in any old part of town you will find two buildings. One is the train station, the other is a Bank Of Montreal building.
We found the Bank Of Montreal building right in the middle of town. Encouraged by the industrial economic boom created by large steel plants fed by local coal money, the BOM building was built in 1901 
These are always grand building, and when ever I see them in various cities they still carry their sense of class to this day.

Back on board in time for our dinner time departure, we went up to the top deck which provided a commanding view of Sydney, both the downtown area and the surrounding areas. This was the highest place we found, higher than the buildings in the downtown core.

Time to set sail for our next port of Call, which tomorrow will be Charlottetown, PEI. Included will be a tour of Anne Of Green Gables, for those of you whom are devotees, stick around.  

To see all of the pictures for Sydney and a few cruise ship photos click on the link here to go to my Flickr web site.
You will even get to see Annette going down the outdoor water slides on the ship !