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Miss Wendy's Travelogue:
New York City to Montreal to Quebec City to the Atlantic Coast
And Back to New York City
September 2018

Opposite Photo:
Quebec Street

 

 


 

 

September 16, 2018

Off to Canada!


Waiting Room Penn Station 6AM in the Morning

September 16, 2018: It was early Sunday morning when I hopped on the Amtrak train from New York's Penn Station to Montreal on my way to a Canadian cruise that leaves from Quebec City, travels up the St. Lawrence River to Charlottetown, and then down the Atlantic Coast visiting Sydney, Halifax, St. John, Boston and Newport and then back to New York City. The train (known as the Adirondack train) departs a little after 8AM in the morning and arrives in Montreal about ten hours later.

The train is a good option for the trip from New York City to Montreal. It takes ten hours via train, but the seats are comfortable and since I was traveling on a Sunday, the car was half full so there was no one seated next to me. There is a "restaurant" car (sandwiches, tea etc.), the bathrooms are clean and there is free (and working) WIFI. Ten hours is a long time to be on a train, but so is flying anywhere when you live in New York. There is an hour or two of transportation from home to the airport. Then a couple of hours to get through security and get on the plane which (in the case of New York to Montreal) takes an hour and a half of flight time. Then after landing in Montreal, there is immigration and customs and then finding a cab and traveling about 30 minutes from the airport to downtown Montreal. So plane travel is about 6-7 hours door to door including a lot of schlepping and aggravation. Once you are on the train, all you do is sit on the train (I did say there is WIFI) and occasionally get up to walk about. Canadian Immigration and Customs boards the train at the border and completes their process seat by seat and that time is included in the ten hours. Another plus, the Montreal train station is in downtown Montreal, actually on the same street as my hotel, René Lévesque Boulevard, one of the Montreal's main "drags."

The New York City to Montreal train trip is beautiful. As you leave New York, the train travels along the Hudson River into the Adirondacks going through the Lake George area and passing Lake Champlain.

Click here for information about the Great Dome Car which is added to the Adirondack train for a few weeks each fall.


The Hudson River View on the way to Montreal


Lake Champlain from the Adirondack Train

I stayed at the Travelodge by Wyndham Montreal, 50 Boul Rene Levesque Ouest, for the three days that I was in Montreal. The hotel looks very plain on the Booking.com website and it actually is plain, but clean and modern, the beds are great, the AC and WIFI work and the water is hot. A very nice breakfast was included with the reservation. The hotel borders Montreal's Chinatown which has some great restaurants. Right around the corner from the hotel at 110 Rue Clark, was the great Kan Bai. I had my best meal in Montreal at Kan Bai.


Sculpture Outside the Museum of Contemporary Art

I did not do my homework before booking my hotel, but when I return to Montreal, I would be very happy to stay at the Travelodge again because the location is spectacular. The Travelodge is a block away from Montreal's East Arts District with its Contemporary Art Museum, the Quartier Des Spectacles, Pollack Concert Hall, and the many cultural institutions of the Place des Arts including Theater Maisonnueve. And right across the street is the huge Complex des Jardins with its hotel, offices, shopping and multiple restaurants. Complex des Jardins has a food court with upscale "eateries" similar to the selections at Brookfield Place and downstairs at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.


Montreal Street Art

Some musings on Montreal: Montreal, along with the entire province of Quebec, is French speaking. There is no problem for English speakers at hotels, restaurants or shopping malls but there is a problem for non-French speakers with cab drivers, Uber etc. I missed my reservation and was unable to attend the evening Gardens of Light at the Montreal Botanical Gardens because my Uber driver could not find me and we had a five minute conversation where I kept repeating the name of my hotel and he said "something else" in French. And yes, my phone showed me as standing in front of the hotel. The obvious solution would be for the hotel to call a cab because it is much easier to communicate in person when if nothing else, you can just hand the taxi driver your ticket so he can read the address.

I took a bus tour of Montreal and the tour guide kept pointing out businesses and remarking that now that they were successful, they would probably depart for Toronto. I wondered if the fact that the many Montreal residents speaks only French is not holding the entire city back. When I was in Barcelona, I thought the same thing. Except in Barcelona it is worse. Outside the main tourist areas, speaking English and/or even speaking Spanish does not guarantee that you will be able to communicate, because they speak Catalan. Yes, that's right - Catalan.

So if a United States based company wishes to open a branch in a foreign country, they would logically favor a place where there are no language barriers for their employees. And this is the reason that London won't lose all foreign investment after Brexit. But (Hint! Hint! ) everyone speaks English in Brussels not to mention the Republic of Ireland, both of which will still be in the European Union.

I am not a xenophobe who believes that everyone should speak English, but eventually the entire globe needs to pick one language to be everyone's other-but-mandatory language. And it probably won't be English, but Spanish or Mandarin. Spanish would be the best choice because it is the easiest to learn; it is a far more logical language than either Chinese or English and it is easily pronounced. I know that French was formerly the language of diplomacy, but just try learning to speak French as an adult - the French drop the front and last part of practically every word. An adult learner could easily learn to read and write in French and never be able to actually speak it. So my vote is for Spanish.

In economic terms, having a different language than the other provinces of your country would be called a "barrier to entry." Which basically means that your economy cannot be as robust as a another province of your country which does not have this "barrier."


Notre Dame Cathedral Lit for "Aura"


Notre Dame Cathedral Lit for "Aura"

The Travelodge is also a very short walk from the Notre Dame Cathedral where I saw an amazing light show - "Aura." My photos do not do the show justice as we were not allowed to takes photos during the actual light show, just during the pre-show when parts of the church were illuminated.

Montreal is filled with beautiful churches. Mark Twain once said this about Montreal, "This is the first time I was ever in a city where you couldn't throw a brick without breaking a church window." I joke that I enter more churches on each vacation than I do in a year at home, where my heathenish tenancies seem kick-in. But while on vacation, I tour a church almost daily because that's where they "keep the architecture."

Montreal has many more Churches than it has Christians to fill them (perhaps the citizens of Montreal also visit churches when on vacation) so many of the old churches have been re-purposed as cultural centers, banquet halls or even gyms. See this article about how Montreal is preserving its churches.


Here are some photos of some beautiful Montreal churches that are still in the religion business:


The tomb of Mgr. Bourget,second bishop of Montreal
Mary Queen of the World Cathedral


Mary Queen of the World Cathedral


Saint Patrick's Basilica


Saint Paul's Basilica - Montreal


Street Scene Outside Notre Dame Cathedral

September 19-20, 2018. Quebec City:

Early morning September 19th, I traveled by train from Montreal to Quebec City on way to board the Norwegian Gem for a cruise up the St. Lawrence River and back down the Atlantic Coast to New York City. This particular cruise has an overnight stay in Quebec City at the start, so I was able to board the ship and then start touring Quebec City sans luggage.

The train station is adjacent to the cruise port, so if someone has a moderate amount of rolling luggage, it is an easy walk. And walking is a good idea in Quebec City because the cab drivers in Quebec City have some sort of scam going on with English speaking "tourists" where they pretend that since they don't really speak English, they don't know where places like the cruise port are located. My idea for the first day in town was to take a cab from the cruise port up the hill to the Chateau Frontenac and then walk back down to lower town. But when I was done and grabbed a cab to go from lower town back to the cruise port, the cab driver drove around with his meter running, totally perplexed about just where would be such an obscure address as the cruise port. Since Quebec City is postage stamp size compared to New York, London or even Montreal, that could have been funny but it wasn't.


Lobby Art Chateau Frontenac

Everything you ever heard about Quebec City is true. The cradle of French Civilization in Canada -it's simply gorgeous. Quebec City is the only walled city on the North American continent north of Mexico and is quite deservedly a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is also one of the cleanest cities I have ever visited, an attribute it shares with the other Canadian towns on my cruises itinerary.

Second day in the Quebec City port, I took a Viator walking tour that started uptown at a tourist office across the square from the Chateau Frontenac and proceed down the hill to Lower Town. Finding a "down hill" tour is important because going uphill (there is a funicular) would be extremely aerobic, similar to deciding to walk up a ski mountain before skiing down.

Here are some not-to-be-missed attractions in Quebec City (I was only there for a-day-and-a-half so this is not a definitive list):


Chateau Frontenac through the trees
To get a photo of the entire Chateau Frontenac, you would need a crane -
a very large crane.

1. The Chateau Frontenac has been described as the most photographed hotel in America. It is beautiful, historic and incredibly romantic. Visiting the Chateau is enough of a justification for a trip to Quebec City.


Row Houses in the Neighborhood Adjacent to the Château

2. The beautiful homes in the neighborhood around the Chateau. According to our guide, the best houses in this neighborhood sell for around half a million US. They would sell for several million more if they were in the New York area or even one of the New York vacation spots like the Hamptons. Quebec City is a quick plane ride from NYC, so the question arises, "Why isn't this place just filled with obnoxious New Yorkers like me?" Well, most New Yorkers cannot speak French, so there you have it.

3. Terrasse Dufferin - you can access the Terrace from the Chateau and once on the Terrace, look at the Plains of Abraham where the British defeated the French in 1759. The views up and down the Terrace and the river are just as stunning in person as they are in the thousand of photographs we have all seen.


Uptown Quebec City

4. Uptown AKA Haute-Ville with its walkable neighborhoods

5. The Citadel where you can watch the changing of the guard ceremony during the summer.

5. The Hôtel du Parliament home to the Quebec regional parliament.

6. The Funicular from Lower town to Upper town.


Cobblestone Street in Lower Town


Lower Town Mural

7. Lower Town Quebec City


Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica

8. The churches - they are on every corner and all worth a look.


The ship sailed out of Quebec City on the afternoon of September 20, 2018, heading up the up the St. Lawrence river to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island Charlottetown was one of four Canadian stops: Charlottetown; Sydney, Nova Scotia; Halifax; Nova Scotia; Saint John, Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick.

One thing all of these Canadian cities have in common is being fastidiously clean. Charlottetown could easily serve as the location for a remake of "The Music Man". There is a wonderful wide main street surrounded by quaint vintage shops and sidewalk cafes. Charlottetown even has a small indoor mall which was actually a lot of fun to visit because there are no chain stores except for a drug store and you will never catch me complaining about seeing a drug store as I have never been on a cruise where I did not need "something" from a drug store. . . Sydney and Halifax (Halifax has a park with a band stand withing walking distance of the cruise port) are not quite as quaint as Charlottetown, but charming and very clean. I was under-the-weather when we reached St. John's Bay so I did not get off the ship, but in 2012, I was on another Canadian cruise and was quite impressed with St. John. St. John has a much more rugged feel than the other Canadian towns on the tour, with a painted buildings and the wonderful old white clapboard St. John City Market, which sells every type of food from sausage to lobsters. When I was in St. John in 2012, my thought was that this is the next Bar Harbour.

If you are interested in emigrating to Canada, here is an interesting Wiki article.


Chip Shack - Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada


Oldest standing Roman Catholic Church in Cape Breton (built in 1828)
now re purposed as St. Patrick's Church Museum


Photograph of the Queen Mother attending St. George's Church, Sydney, Nova Scotia


September 26, 2018, it was Boston. I have visited Boston several times. The last time I was in Boston before this cruise, I stayed at the wonderful College Club Inn, a bed and breakfast on Commonwealth Avenue. The College Club Inn the first women's college club in the United States. It now operates as a bed and breakfast and welcomes both men and women. There are some beautiful formal rooms that are used for weddings and events. The Inn is a short walk to the Boston Garden, the Boston Public Library (stunning) and Trinity Church.

When I stayed at the Inn, I had a single room with a shared bath, but I never saw anyone else in that bathroom and it was always scrupulously clean. There is a large public bathroom on the ground floor that could be used as a back up. The single rooms with shared bath are about half the cost of a room with a private bath. All the rooms are decorated in the style of different East Coast colleges. The Inn has all the modern conveniences (WIFI, air conditioning etc) but there are no televisions in the rooms.

I was in town for three days on my previous visit, and the first day and a half, I spent riding around on a trolley tour which gave an excellent overview of Boston. Afterwards, I took the subway to Faneuil Hall (short walk to the New England Holocaust Memorial and the Union Oyster House), The Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabel Gardiner Museum (check out the stories about the robbery AKA The Heist). The Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabel Gardiner Museum are within walking distance of each other.


Oyster Bar at the Boston Public Market
I can vouch for their lobster rolls


Union Oyster House - America's oldest restaurant
The ceilings are low and the food is good


New England Holocaust Museum
Never Forget

Every decent tour of Boston should include a stop at Paul Revere's home. It is located in the North End which is home to some amazing Italian restaurants and a quick walk to the Old North Church (of lantern fame).

The Revere home is fascinating and I left there with a much better understanding or Mr. Revere and his many occupations as silversmith, bronze bell caster, early industrialist, militia officer, revolutionary war rider etc. etc. The house was small and Mr. Revere fathered sixteen children with two different (subsequent) wives and they all lived in that house (one wife at a time). Home must have been cluttered and noisy as hell so rather than pitch in, Revere became a VERY BUSY MAN. I would not be surprised to learn that he only returned when it was time to create yet another young Revere. So there.

P.S. The reason Paul Revere's name, and not some other rider's name, was used in Longfellow's poem is because it rhymes with hear.


The last port-of-call for the cruise was Newport, Rhode Island on September 27, 2018. The Newport Mansions are spectacular and well worth a a few days in Newport. The Preservation Society of Newport lists seven mansions but the four not-to-be missed are: The Breakers; The Elms; Marble House; and Rosecliff.

I toured all four mansions in 2012 but this time my tour only took me to the Breakers. I am not complaining, the Breakers is gorgeous.


A Touch of Elegance at The Breakers


Main Salon


Staircase at the Breakers where Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney Made Her Debut


The Music Room


The Back Porch


The Breakers Kitchen


The Dish Pantry


Back View of The Breakers

 

 

 

 

 

 


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