Thursday, September 18, 2014

Comfort Bus Tours to Montreal: Saturday, August 30-Sept. 1 2014

Day 1:
Up at 5:30 am on Saturday, August 30, we set out on our Comfort Bus Tours to Montreal. It was going to be a long day. I took a good book with me, and had a sleep on the journey to Montreal, which all helped make the journey quite pleasant.

Leaving Toronto at 7:15 am, after a stop at The Big Apple for coffee and apple pie, then a lunch break close to Mallorytown, we arrived at Dorchester Square, Montreal, at 3:00 pm as scheduled. Stretching our legs, John and I were amused to find our first view of the statues in the square was one of Robert Burns. Sir Wilfred Laurier, French-Canada's first Prime Minister, faces off from the square, across to Sir John A Macdonald, Canada's first Prime Minister, over in the Place du Canada. The Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral stands close by.

Our Montreal guide toured us around the city to see the sights. As the guide explained, this was a taste so that we could come back to Montreal and visit at leisure, knowing what to see. On a very fast tour, we saw the old city, the Basilica Notre-Dame, then we had a ride around the track of the Grand Prix, past the site of the Expo 67 World Fair, the Museum of Fine Arts, McGill University, stopping at Mount Royal to enjoy the view over the city: I feel breathless to mention even some of the items on the list.We did, indeed, see everything, even if quickly! John and I had both visited the city at different times in the past, and it was enjoyable to have our memories refreshed.

At 6:30 pm, we arrived at the hotel on the rue de la Montange. After dinner at the hotel, John and I went for a stroll along the Rue Sainte-Catherine. Enjoying the atmosphere, we gained a feeling for the action, before deciding to return to the comfortable bed at the hotel. We slept soundly.

Day 2:
Quebec Parliament Building
Up at 6:30 am, we had breakfast at the hotel. I missed oatmeal, but we had a huge choice of food, and the coffee was good. Off to Quebec City at 7:45 am. What a beautiful city: so well planned, and so clean!

At 11:00 am, our Quebec City guide arrived. We saw Quebec City Town Hall and the Quebec Parliament Buildings, with its facade presenting the history of Quebec. Then on to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Quebec (1674).  Of course, we toured around Battlefield Park and the Plains of Abraham, site of the decisive battle between the French and the English (1759). We were intrigued to see that nowadays the battlefield is used for sports: rugby and soccer, and a running track.

At 2:00 pm we were deposited at Le Chateau Frontenac Hotel in the Old City, and had free time in which to have lunch. John and I opted for a pub in the main square and I had the best hamburger I have ever tasted. Even the bun was delicious, not at all like the usual cardboard used to hold the meat patty together. After lunch we strolled around Le Chateau Frontenac, admiring the little shops in the foyer. Feeling like coffee, we asked at Le Petit Chateau, a French Creperie next door to the hotel, if we could have just coffee. We were ushered in to a table directly in front of the hippie musician, and given delicious French coffee. We were given refills with a smile, and had a delightful time listening to Bridge Over Troubled Waters and other lovely songs from that period sung by our friend, the aging hippie. John felt he had to give a large tip in appreciation, and we were left with a lovely memory, and warm feelings about French Canadians. I like them, because they understand my French.

At 8:00 pm, we arrived back at our hotel in Montreal. We had dinner again at the hotel, and retired to bed to sleep soundly in preparation for our last day of the tour.

Day 3:
At 6:15 am, we were given a wake-up call, and after breakfast at the hotel, we were whisked off to Ottawa. At 10:00 am, our local guide conducted us on a quick tour of the city. We saw the Parliament Buildings, Stornaway, the home of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and were given a drive along the Rideau Canal. first opened in 1832. In the winter, this becomes one of the largest, open-air skating rinks in the world. Then lunch in the open-air Byward Market.

At 1:00 pm, we left for 1000 Islands near Ganaoque, ON. We arrived at 3:00 pm, and enjoyed a 1-hour cruise with the Ganaoque Boat Line, around the area. The most striking thing left in my memory is the picture of the Boltd Castle rising as if directly out of the water. Begun by George Boltd, general manager of the Wardolf-Astoria Hotel in New York City in 1900, it was restored in 1977. It is possible to visit it, but obviously we didn't have time to do so. Holiday cottages are dotted around on the many islands, and I enjoyed getting the "feel" of this lovely area.

At 4:30 pm, we left for Toronto. We arrived back in Toronto around 7:30 pm and home by 8:30 pm. We both were tired but exhilarated. We had thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa, and the 1000 Island area. It was fun to renew our memories of these beautiful cities.

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