Quebec City, Day 1

I’m getting ahead of myself a little. Before we took the train up to Quebec City, we went to the big park in Montreal, called Parc Mont Royal. It was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead (like Central Park and the Biltmore Estate). It was really beautiful, and there’s a great view of the city.

After that, we hopped on the train and headed to Quebec City. When we arrived, I grabbed a map and discovered that the walk to our hotel was basically straight uphill, but we were excited, so it wasn’t all that bad.

Okay, it wasn’t all a breeze, but we made it!

After we got settled in, we just walked around, kind of aimlessly. I always feel a little overwhelmed when I first arrive in a new city, so I like to just walk without trying to get anywhere or do anything, except maybe eat. We ended up walking around the fortifications of the city (it’s the only walled city north of Mexico). Here’s some good stuff:

We eventually walked our way to a restaurant that looked good, but check out this menu item!

Also, Canadians have the bloody mary-esque drink figured OUT. They use tomato juice, vodka, clam juice and celery salt and a splash of something spicy (it varies). That’s it. I really hate bits of stuff floating in my bloody mary, which is all too common. Plus the clam juice adds some depth and saltiness that makes it perfect. It’s called a Cesar.

After dinner, we had to go change clothes because it was too cold. It’s August, mind you. It was 60-some degrees and the wind was wild. After that, we headed out to see one of the must-see Quebec things. Every night in the summer, they project a film across the river onto some old grain silos. It is the biggest projection project that’s in practice right now. It’s the size of 25 IMAX screens. The pictures that I got aren’t great, but you kind of get the idea.

But, it was really cold and windy, so we didn’t stay for the whole thing. See below for proof:

We did catch a glimpse of the Chateau Frontenac on the way back to the hotel:

Tomorrow, it rains!

 

Montreal, Day 2

Okay, there’s a lot here. First, let me introduce you to our traveling companions, Ryan and Liz. Ryan was Jason’s randomly chosen suitemate when he was a freshman at UNCA (along with Bert, who is previously pictured in this blog) and they’ve been friends ever since. Liz is Ryan’s girlfriend. In this picture, she is blaming Ryan for being late to meet us after breakfast.

The 1976 Olympics was held in Montreal, and they built what is still the world’s largest inclined tower for it.

They have made the Olympic Park into a great zoo-type place called the Biodome, where they have all the different Canadian Biomes represented. Here are some highlights:

Okay, this is a capybara. It’s essentially a HUGE gerbil. Seriously. Check this blog out to see how big they are… and just be creeped out by this lady with a blog about her pet capybara. They are the largest rodent in the world.

This monkey kept staring right at me. When I was a kid, my parents took me to the Asheboro Zoo and they told me (in jest) that I was related to the gorillas. I felt like they were right when this guy kept staring me down. It was like he was recognizing my inner-monkeyness and showing me some fellow monkey respect. I liked him.

Here I am in my natural habitat.

Then we got to see these guys! They were way cool. I don’t have a great picture of the whole exhibit because people were crowding it basically nonstop, but you could watch the penguins waddle over to the water and dive in and then you could see them swimming underwater, which is truly unbelievable. They’re so awkward and strange on land, but when they get in the water, they’re so poised and graceful. Here’s one that was totally hamming it up for me:

After we left the Biodome, we went to the Insectarium. I was dreading the idea of lots of live bugs, but these were mostly dead and arranged in artistic ways, which was totally cool with me.

This was really amazing because check out all the colors! And they’re all safely dead.

After the Insectarium, we walked around the Botanical Gardens. I was honestly expecting that we’d walk through some grass and see some local trees and all that jazz. I was so wrong. First, we ran into a Japanese tea house and a bonsai exhibit; check out this crepe myrtle, it’s 70 years old!

There was a Chinese garden, too. With weird little pagodas and everything.

And really pretty lotus flowers.After the gardens, we went to the Marche Atwater, which is like a giant farmers market, but there’s more than just produce, they have bakeries, butchers, cheese shops, all sorts of things. I was starving when we got there, so we got some bread, cheese and salami and sat outside at a picnic table for lunch. Jason bought some beers and asked the guy at the store if you were allowed to drink outside and he responded, “you may drink as long as you have friends and food.” So we had beer, too.

 

Interesting thing that doesn’t really fit anywhere else: The metro system in Montreal is great, and in one of the stations, there is this really cool stained glass thing:

I noticed that both Montreal and Quebec City are really interested in using public space for things other than being functional. I saw a lot of things (like this stained glass) that you don’t see all that often in the states, probably because it would take so much hoop-jumping. It really makes for a beautiful city, though. Things that are utterly ordinary in the US could be so much more.

After all this exploring and sightseeing, we all wanted to sit and drink a beer and relax a little. We ended up at this really great place called The Distillery, where they serve drinks in quart (yes, quart)-sized mason jars in this sort of kitschy southern charm kind of way. It was pretty great. Also, they make really convenient shakers for the bartenders.

It’s not uncommon in Canada to use beer in cocktails. I thought this was going to be super weird, but the bartenders at this bar have a competition every month where each person has to make an original cocktail with a certain ingredient. September’s ingredient was beer, so both bartenders were making test drinks and they gave them to us to try. One guy’s was a blonde beer with Jameson, agave syrup…and something else. The other guy made his with a stout and Grand Marnier and some sort of whiskey. I kind of panicked when they handed them across the bar because, well, I was worried they’d be gross and we’d have to drink them to be polite. But, they were actually really delicious. The whiskey and dark beer one especially.

After our drinks, we went to dinner at a nice-ish restaurant in the old city and sat outside while the sun went down.

After dinner, we crashed hard. Talk about a long day.

Also, Jason discovered espresso in Montreal. The drip coffee at this place wasn’t great, so he went for the real stuff and hadn’t ever had it before.

He said, “it’s like falling in love!”

Tomorrow, we hit Quebec City, and talk about falling in love. I don’t know why everyone doesn’t go there all the time. You’ll see.

Montreal, Day 1

Coming over the bridge into Canada:

After driving into Montreal, we grabbed lunch at a little french bistro near our hotel.

Nothin’ like a croque madame to get into the spirit of speaking French!

Then I guess we needed some gelatto across the street…

Later that day, we walked around in Vieux-Montreal, the old part of the city.

 

 

Montreal is bigger than I thought, it has a great Metro system and is a pretty cosmopolitan place. But don’t worry, we had it under control.

We tried poutine, but the place that we went wasn’t the greatest. We thought it was a little microbrewery, but we found out later that it’s a pretty big chain, something like a TGI Friday’s. We had some beer anyway.

Poutine is sort of the Canadian dish to try, it’s french fries with cheese curds and gravy. I imagine it would be really good on a bone-chilling cold kind of day, which is about 75% of the year around here. It’s very rich and very Canadian. There will be better poutine later.

On day two in Montreal, I promise we’ll do things other than eat and drink.

 

 

Waddington, NY

After driving all day on Saturday, we stopped and spent the night in Waddington, NY at our friend Ryan’s aunt’s house. Waddington is really, really small and you have to pass through several other really, really small towns on the way there. One of them had these signs on every telephone pole in town:

It says: “Home of the 2007 NY State Girls Basketball Champions.”

Also, this is what Jason was doing around this time:

When we arrived in Waddington, we found out (pretty quickly) that it was homecoming weekend, so there were people everywhere standing in the streets drinking beer when we came into town. Waddington isn’t that big and I’m pretty sure most of the people there are related to Ryan (both of his parents are Waddingtonians).

We went to a BBQ place that had a pig outside, in case you wanted to get to know one before you ate her cousins.

Later that night, we caught Waddington’s only annual fireworks. They don’t have any for Fourth of July or New Years (probably not then because no one could stand outside that long in January). Needless to say, everyone was really excited.

Gettysburg

On the second day of driving, we stopped at Gettysburg. They have a really great self-guided car tour (for free!) that we did. Here’s me and the map.

We found North Carolina’s monument (there are monuments on basically every square foot of this place, it’s crazy).

Did you know that 1 in every 4 Confederate soldiers that died at Gettysburg were from North Carolina?

Here are a couple of other good ones.

Monticello

On our first day of driving, we made a pit stop in Charlottesville to see good ole’ Thomas Jefferson’s house, Monticello. It was absolutely amazing. Here are some highlights.

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Baseball

There’s something about baseball games that is sort of nostalgic. No, but really, it’s one of those weird things that always seems a little old fashioned, like trains or coke in glass bottles. There is always the kid selling peanuts and cracker jacks in the stands. It sort of makes you feel like you’re a kid, no matter how old you are.

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