USA and Canada

I was actually more excited about our 3 night break in New York City than the rest of the holiday, as it’s a place I’ve always wanted to to visit, there was a lot of expectation to live up to. I had an itinerary worked out like a military campaign and had bought advance tickets for the Circle Line boat cruise around Manhattan, and Edge observatory on day one. Then day two was the Hop on hop off bus, ferry to Brooklyn and a walk back over the iconic Brooklyn Bridge to pick up the bus again. However between a flight delay and a missed connection on the way there and then unfortunately hurricane Ophelia proving more than a match for Whirlwind Jill, it really was the worst of times. Although we did some of the things I’d wanted to do, we were truly washed out. It was so wet, miserable and with poor visibility that there wasn’t much joy in ticking things off the bucket list. To say I’m disappointed really doesn’t cover my feelings and I’ll feel this way forever I think. I just feel like someone dangled New York in front of me and then snatched it away at the last moment.

We landed at JFK at 7:30pm, four hours later than we should have. It took over two hours to get through passport control with a huge queue and only about three of the eleventy billion desks open. A taxi from JFK to Manhattan is around £70, the airtrain and subway is $11 so we opted for that. Blimey, the subway was an experience! It was like some 1970s movie with people lying asleep on the train, some obviously drugged up on something, and takeaway food all over the floor, a bit scary to be honest but I’m really glad we did it because it felt like real New York. The hotel was basic but OK and in a great location halfway between Central Park and Times Square and we arrived at midnight, which was 5am UK time. We’d been travelling 21 hours so opted to go straight to bed!

As usual I’d done a bit of pre-trip research and found a cafe for breakfast next morning, called Toasties, a few minutes walk away and next to St Patrick’s Cathedral. We battled through the rain in search of food. It was busy with locals getting takeout coffees and food, which is usually a good sign and we weren’t disappointed. Good coffee, tasty omelette and my new favourite, homefries which are little cubes of potato, fried up with onions and plenty of seasoning. Yummy.

Breakfast at Toasties

After breakfast we set out to see the sights. The rain was belting down and the wind almost whipping the the clothes off our backs. The top of the Empire State building was shrouded in cloud, as was the Chrysler building, at least that’s what we saw in the brief moments we could lift up our heads to look around us. We made it to Grand Central terminal and that was worth seeing, we both took lots of photos inside. I’d planned a stop in Bryant Park for a coffee and a snack on our way to the pier for the boat trip but obviously couldn’t do that. Probably just as well because the pier was a bit further than I’d anticipated due to me sending us in the wrong direction for several blocks! So it was a very soggy, long, trek to the pier for our Circle Line best of New York cruise which would circumnavigate the whole of Manhattan island….usually! However the first announcement once we were on board was to say that because of the high tide, the boat couldn’t fit under some of the bridges so we would turn back at some point and come back the same way. Now by this time, I was feeling really hard done by. Not only were we soaked through but the sightseeing cruise I’d specifically chosen because it was the only one that went right around the island, now was not able to do that. The tour guide did his best to point out things of interest and give us some facts and history but visibility was just so bad that it was hard to make out what he was talking about. The rain did ease off briefly and as we approached the statue of liberty, lots of people went out on deck to take photos and of course we did the same. I took lots of photos but most weren’t very good, below is one of the better ones.

Short period of calm on the boat tour.

After the boat trip, we were due to go up the Edge so we set off to Hudson Yards. This should have been a pleasant 15 minutes along the Hudson waterfront, then I’d thought we could have a walk a little way along the Highline, a beautiful park that’s been created in the area that the old freight trainline used to run above the streets, before heading to the Edge for our 5:30 time slot. Hurricane Ophelia had other plans for us though and after battling the head wind and driving rain, we were just relieved to get into the mall. We found the Edge, still open despite the weather, but with visibility at zero out on the platform they were offering to switch tickets for another day. We opted to do that in the vain hope that Sunday might be slightly better weather.

Hudson Yards – the Edge observatory platform is up there somewhere in the clouds!

After something to eat, we looked for transport options to get back to the hotel. It was a 40 minutes walk, which we would have done normally, stopping for a drink along the way but we took the bus instead. We still had a long hike from the bus stop to the hotel and by the time we got back we were so wet and miserable that we couldn’t face going back out. Patrick went to the off-licence across the road for a bottle of wine and after a nice hot shower, we snuggled up with a bottle of shiraz and then had an early night. Can you believe it? For two nights running in New York, we’re in a hotel room instead of what I thought we would be doing, enjoying the sights and sounds of the city that never sleeps.

Sunday morning and Ophelia was still doing her thing. I now gave in to the tears that I’d been holding back, I was just so disappointed. I suggested that we forget my dream of walking the Brooklyn Bridge but thankfully Patrick, probably realising how much I would regret not doing it, said we should just do what we’d planned, we would be getting wet whatever we did. With that in mind, we headed out to catch the Hop on hop off bus at Times square. The rain actually stopped for about 20 minutes and it was enjoyable on the bus, you see so much more than street level, the tops of the buildings were still up in the clouds and invisible though. We got off the bus at Wall Street and walked to pier 11 for the East River ferry across to DUMBO in Brooklyn. DUMBO stands for down under Manhattan bridge overpass and in recent years, the once derelict buildings were taken over by creatives and artists and it’s now one of the most expensive areas to live. I found the spot to take THAT iconic picture and for a while, all was well in the world.

Instagrammers delight!

A Google search for a pub pointed us to Henry Street Alehouse so off we set, with the rain starting again. We had a couple of beers, hoping it might ease off before we set off back over the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge. Thankfully it did, briefly, only to start again just as we reached the walkway. The pedestrian walkway is right along the centre of the bridge with cycle paths and road traffic either side. It was an amazing view walking towards the Manhattan skyline (when not being blinded by the horizontal rain) and I’m grateful I had the opportunity to do it but can’t help feeling disappointed that the weather spoiled the experience.

Walking the Brooklyn Bridge

By the time we’d got on the Hop on hop off bus again we were drenched. There were no seats downstairs so we just had to sit upstairs in the open. The plastic ponchos we’d bought helped a little but not much. By now we’d decided we were not going to bother going to the Edge. There seemed little point in standing on a platform 1100ft in the air seeing nothing but cloud and getting even bloody wetter! We hopped off back at Times Square, the rain again eased briefly so we had a wander and took photos before heading back to the hotel for a shower. Patrick had found a pub just around the corner, the Judge Roy Bean, that also did food so we headed there for the evening and very nice it was too, even if a tad on the pricey side at £129 for two burgers and chips and a couple of beers each!

Monday was another rainy day. I didn’t want to leave without seeing Central Park so we decided to walk that way to the cruise terminal. I’m sure it’s glorious in more pleasant weather but to be honest, it was a huge mistake to walk that way with 20kg suitcases in the pissing rain. Even the poor little sparrows and squirrels were like drowned rats! We should just have gone for coffee somewhere and got a cab to the terminal. We walked through the bottom of the park, then right across the streets, it took about 45 minutes and we were so wet we were just dripping when we finally got there.

Lots of idiot tourists in Central Park – only us with suitcases though!

Below is a slideshow of some of the better photos from New York – you can imagine then how rubbish the ones that didn’t make the cut are!

On board at last but there was quite a long wait for cabins to be ready. We had a drink and a bite to eat sitting at the bar in The Local, then went to explore.  We found our way up to the Observation Lounge and found a seat in the lounge alongside a friendly American couple, (who we soon nicknamed Fred and Ginger due to them telling us how they loved to do ballroom dancing). We’d purchased the Free At Sea package which, among other things, included all drinks up to $15 (pretty much everything on the bar menus really). Patrick was delighted to find that Wild Turkey bourbon was included! So with drink in hand, we watched the sail out from there. I got a better picture of Liberty too.

Our first night aboard was nice, it was warm and dry for one thing! We ate in the main dining room, which is vast and very, very busy. We found we preferred the two smaller dining rooms other evenings. We explored some of the other bars and found that we really liked the quiet of the Observation lounge and the pub atmosphere and the selection of beers in The District the most. The sea was quite rough on that first night and I was a little bit worried about sea-sickness after suffering a bit during our Canaries cruise in January but I was fine.

Boston Common

Tuesday was Boston and in the morning we were told that due to the weather, we would be late docking. This was disappointing because it was already a fairly late arrival, not giving us a lot of time in port. However, there was no wet stuff hurtling from the sky which was a bonus. We were supposed to have arrived at 1:30 and all back aboard by 8:30 but by the time we’d all disembarked, it was almost 4pm and been told that all aboard time was 7pm, so spotting a hop on hop off trolleybus we joined the queue, bought our tickets and got on a bus at about 4:20. I noticed a sign at the front of the bus saying that the last bus was 5pm just as the driver announced that we wouldn’t really have time to get off and explore any of the sights. At the cost of $140 (£114),we felt a tad miffed that the ticket booth person hadn’t mentioned that fact.

The driver was also the tour guide and quite entertaining. Bostonians are a patriotic lot and clearly very proud of that tea dumping shenanigans and the pivotal part it played in the independence of the USA and there were lots of digs at ‘the British’. Our driver said we would have time to get off maybe once and pick up one of the buses behind us so we got out at the Cheers Bar to find it covered in scaffolding – we’ve got a shitty luck theme going on here and we were starting to wonder if anything was going to go well during the holiday. Anyhow, not to be deterred, we walked across the historic Boston Common to pick up a bus at the other side. It was dark by now and I have to say, I was relieved to see the bus coming as we weren’t sure if we’d missed the last one.

We arrived back at the ship to a shambolic queuing system and it took ages to get back on board. Mainly because of the number of passengers needing wheelchair assistance. I’ve never been on a cruise with so many old folk and people with mobility problems! The man behind us the queue wasn’t holding back on his opinion of the process and I recognised his accent as being fairly close to ours. Patrick asked where they were from and it was York. Back on the ship and we were straight into The District Brewhouse, the craft beer bar. This was to become our firm favourite bar on the ship. Here we met the couple from York, Paul and Jackie and had a good laugh with them. We bumped into them several times over the course of the week, mostly in The District!

Wednesday and we docked in Portland, Maine. This was promising, not only was it not raining but it was sunny and warm and it looked like a very pretty, quaint town with brightly painted clapboard houses. Patrick had read in the daily newsletter on the ship that there was somewhere with sea and mountain views and armed with a map from the cruise terminal, we thought it was a park area we could see on the map, so we headed off in that direction. It wasn’t where we needed to be and we found ourselves walking through a dodgy looking neighbourhood with groups of what looked to be drunks and down and outs hanging around, we walked past one guy who appeared to be fast asleep standing up in the middle of the footpath! We found our way back to civilisation thankfully and sat outside a bar in a nice looking square to catch our breath. We then made our way towards the waterfront and thus more touristy area. It was lovely here, teeming with bars, restaurants and shops. I was determined to try a lobster roll, a local favourite, so we went into a bar called Rosie’s for a snack. Patrick had a chicken wrap and I ordered the lobster roll which was delicious. They came with the crispiest, best fries we’ve ever had and we were stuffed afterwards. We’d spotted a brew pub called Gritty McDuff’s along the main drag so headed off there for a couple of beers before heading back to the ship to relax before getting ready for the evening when we’d chosen to eat at Cagney’s Steakhouse. Portland gallery below, click to enlarge and scroll through.

The food on board the ship was very good and the buffet at breakfast and lunch had a huge variety of choices. In the evenings though, we were a little disappointed with the three main complimentary restaurants, not because of the quality of the food or service, but the fact that they all had the same menu. If you wanted variety, you had to eat at one of the seven restaurants specialising in various cuisines, Italian, Seafood etc. These you had to pay for, as you would at any restaurant on shore. As part of the ‘Free at Sea’ package we’d purchased, we had one included meal at a speciality dining restaurant, so had booked to go to Cagneys, a steak restaurant this evening. It was a lovely experience and the food was excellent. We felt taken care of by the serving staff and we decided to treat ourselves to a bottle of wine as we didn’t need to pay for the meal. You can’t possibly have steak without a good red wine after all. We headed off to the Local afterwards and enjoyed listening to the only decent bar singers on the whole ship. Arvin and Emily were outstanding, both had great voices. Most of the other entertainment to be found in the bars wasn’t very good at all. Apparently I was drunk tonight, but I don’t remember being drunk at all! haha.

Day 4 was Thursday and it was a day at sea. I felt we really needed this rest and relaxation as we’d had a busy time in New York and in the two ports visited so far. We’re not really ones for quizzes or games on holiday, it all feels a bit Butlins. So, like a huge number of other people, we found seats in the lounge and just relaxed most of the day. We grabbed lunch in the buffet and had snacks and drinks as we wanted and I think there might even have been a nap involved. We did have a bit of a walk around and explored too though and spent some time sitting outside along the waterfront area, which was the outside seating of some of the bars and restaurants. The ship, as I say, was huge. There was even a speedway track on the top deck as well as a laser quest type thing. There were two waterslides, one of which extended over the side of the ship and one with a vertical drop before hurtling through the rest of the tube. Click for large pictures.

Tonight was also the ‘Dress up or not’ night, in the absence of a formal night. We found most people didn’t bother to dress up! We did though and I thought I might feel a little self-conscious in my sparkly dress but I didn’t at all. Sod the scruffy Americans, we Brits like to make a bit of an effort now and then. After our meal we headed to the theatre to see the on board show of Footloose which was great. We again went to the Local afterwards as it was next to the theatre. We’d been to the 10pm show and it was late so we just wanted a quick nightcap. Now it was Patrick’s turn to be drunk, and boy he really was. As we’ve often found on cruise ships, the bar staff don’t bother to measure out spirits and the Wild Turkey that Patrick came back from the bar with was huge. He’d already had a few drinks during the evening so this just tipped him over the edge. A bout of hiccups had him giggling like a girl! Annoyingly, he never suffers from hangovers!

On Friday morning, we docked at Sydney, Cape Breton Island. This was another very pretty town with clapboard houses and shops and again, the weather was glorious.

Sydney has a heritage of Scots and Irish and the as a tribute to the music of the Celtic community, there is a huge fiddle outside the cruise terminal which is a must for a photo opportunity.

We picked up a map in the cruise terminal and set off to explore the town. I’d already researched a little and found a museum to visit called the Jost house so we set off towards that. It was a small house but an interesting guided tour. Afterwards we wandered around some more and found a nice little bar to sit outside of for a while.

Saturday was Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island of Anne of Green Gables fame. ‘Anne’ was there in the cruise terminal to greet visitors and have pictures taken, which I’m sure would have involved a cost. We again picked up a map to find our way around. I was impressed with all the cruise terminals we visited in Canada, they all had plenty of staff to assist and answer questions as well as giving out maps. We had opted not to go on any of the cruise ship’s excursions on this holiday, except for one in Quebec, mainly because the cost of them was extortionate. However I wish we had done an Island tour today as we were getting a bit tired of wandering around towns that to be honest, although all very pretty and quaint, all looked very similar with the clapboard buildings. We followed a marked route on the tourism map and had a look in a church, St Dunstan’s Basilica, which was beautiful. The route also took us past some heritage houses and the famous (in Canada anyway) Great George Hotel. This was where the first meetings leading to the creation of Canada as a country took place after a discussion between two men, unusually both named John Hamilton Gray. I took photos of the statue of the two Johns and also of the hotel, although there was a stupid woman just standing in front of it the whole time. You’d think she would have taken the hint and moved but I just had to crop her out of the photo as best I could. Heading back to the ship, we found a little jetty area of food and drink outlets with tables to sit at. We decided to have some fries and a beer and enjoy the atmosphere some more before getting back on board.

Tonight’s show was a singer who we had first spotted in the queue to board the ship in New York. We didn’t know at that time that she was part of the entertainment, we just thought she was a passenger with a very eccentric style. She had a huge mohican type hairstyle, leather shorts and high boots and was very funky looking – I thought she looked amazing! Her name is Ashlie-Amber and she’d been a contestant on American Idol. Her show on the ship was a tribute to Whitney Houston. Not an impersonation, a tribute, and in between songs, she told us of her own life stories. She had a fantastic voice and did Whitney proud, I feel I can say that as a huge Whitney fan myself and we thoroughly enjoyed her show.

Our second sea day of the cruise was today, Sunday and much like the previous one, we lounged about most of the day. In the evening we went to see the show Elements in the theatre. Another fantastic show with dancers, circus performers and an incredible magician/illusionist performing routines representing the elements of earth, air, fire and water, The whole show had us spellbound.

Monday and we were now into French Canada. The port today was Saguenay and this was definitely a place that we should have booked an excursion for. There was a great welcome outside the terminal, stilt walkers and lumberjacks as well as musicians. It was a very scenic area but there really was nothing to see or do in the very small port village. We asked in the terminal if it was possible for us to walk to some of the wilderness that surrounded the town so we could have a short hike out in nature (we’d worn walking boots in the hope of doing this) but were told that it wasn’t really walkable and that although there was a guided tour, it was fully booked. We picked up port map and spent a couple of hours wandering around and along the waterfront, with me taking lots of photos of more clapboard houses. There was a small auto museum which we peeked into but it was rammed with other tourists. As there weren’t even shops or bars to call into, we just went back to the ship, had lunch and sat on deck with a drink. It was nice to relax though and by now, my feet were really hurting with all the walking we’d been doing over the past week and a bit. A few pics below from our time in Saguenay.

Tuesday and our last full day of the cruise. We docked in beautiful Quebec with a fabulous view of Chateau Frontenac and disembarked to go explore before our excursion in the afternoon. We didn’t go far, just a quick reccy as we were staying in Quebec the next night so would have plenty of time to explore the next day.

Quebec from the ship

We’d booked to go on a coach via the scenic Beaufort coast to the Canyon Sainte Anne with a visit to a winery for a tasting afterwards. The canyon was simply stunning with waterfalls and three suspension bridges to walk across. The autumn colours were just coming into play and the weather was glorious warm and sunny. After plenty of time to walk around, we were back on the coach to the winery. This was a quaint little building in the middle of fields of vines, I imagine it was once a farmhouse. There were, I realised as we left, other large buildings around, presumably where all the production takes place, but on the approach, all you notice is this little white house with a wrap around verandah and it creates a lovely impression. We were shown into a room set with chairs and tables each with three glasses of wine. An interesting talk followed and we tasted each of the wines in turn. I really enjoyed the white wine and so bought a bottle to bring home.

Winery – L’Ange Gardien (The Guardian Angel)

Selection of photos below from the Canyon Sainte Anne.

Our last night aboard the Norwegian Joy and we just had our meal and a few drinks as we’d done all week. We’d packed and put our suitcases outside our room as instructed and were due to disembark at around 8:45 the next morning.

After a well organised disembarkation process, we left our suitcases at the terminal for a small charge and set out to explore Quebec City. As the port was ‘between ships’ so to speak, it was fairly quiet and so when we found the funicular which went up to the beautiful boardwalk of Dufferin Terrace at the top of the town, there were actually no other tourists around and we had it all to ourselves.

The terrace, overlooked by the gorgeous hotel Chateau Frontenac was almost deserted and we didn’t realise how fortunate we were at the time to be able to wander at leisure and enjoy the views – the next day in the City was very crowded with a new ship in as well as people about to board the Joy for her return journey to New York.

We came across the old toboggan slide which was built in 1884 and still runs every winter, it actually looked lethal, I’m not sure I’d fancy it. At the end of Dufferin Terrace were the steps leading to the Governor’s Promenade around the citadel, 310 steps but with plenty of rest stops to take in the views so it didn’t actually feel that difficult. Up at the top is the Plains of Abraham park area and an easy walk back down into the lower town. On the way down, we passed the stunning building Hotele du Parlement, the Parliament building of Quebec, we stopped to take pictures and walk through the beautiful gardens. I didn’t realise that you could have a free guided tour until reading about it after arriving home! We found our way back into the old town of Quebec and had a lunch of pizza sitting out the front of a small restaurant, before going to pick up our luggage and get a cab to our hotel, which we’d found was several miles out of town with nothing to do or see around it, the cab cost around £30! Fortunately we found we were on a busy bus route so could catch a bus to and from the old town, although it was a 30-40 minute ride, for only $3.75.

After freshening up, we set out for the bus to go back into the old town to explore some more and have a meal and drinks. The hotel reception advised us where the bus stop was and we set out. However, after standing at the bus top for a good 20 minutes or more and seeing every bus number except the one we wanted pass by, I decided to ask a young girl in the bus shelter if our number 11 bus stopped here. A man standing nearby overheard me and said that we needed to walk up to the next stop as the number 11 didn’t pass this one! The bus driver was one of those people who you wonder why they work in a public service job, proper grumpy twat!. We tried to pay with debit card but you needed either a kind of travel card thing or to pay cash, luckily I had cash but while struggling to open my purse, the driver set off almost causing me to fall over. If Patrick hadn’t caught me, I would have been on the floor. The journey was pleasant though as it passed through very nice residential areas rather than along the main highway the taxi had brought us along, and we got off the bus in old Quebec. We had a lovely evening mooching around the streets and square of Vieux Quebec and found a nice bar, the Pub Des Borgia, next to the funicular where we had a drink as we weren’t ready to eat just yet. Some American ladies at the next table struck up conversation and it turned out they had been on the ship with us and were also travelling to Montreal the next day but on an earlier train. After a couple of drinks, we set out to find somewhere to eat only to find most places closing up. We found a place in an attractive square (which turned out to the be the back of the same restaurant we’d eaten out the front of at lunchtime!) and were seated and ordering before long. We then overheard the waiter, as he turned away a couple a few minutes after us, explaining that restaurants have to close at 9pm, this seemed completely mad to us but we were just relieved to have got in before they closed. Can you believe, October in Canada and we were sitting and eating outside a restaurant, not wearing jackets or coats? Unbelievable weather. Whilst waiting for the bus, I took a lovely floodlit photo of the chateau, a real ‘wow’ vista.

Quebec at night – beautiful Chateau Frontenac looking over the lower city.

After a good night’s sleep, we went down to the hotel restaurant to have breakfast. This wasn’t included in the price and at about £20 each, I was hoping for something better than what we got! It was a buffet and not a good one, but it filled a gap. We were keen to make the most of our time in Quebec so checked out and got the bus to the train station where we could leave our luggage until the time of our train. The train station, Gare Du Palais is a stunning building, fairytale-like turrets and all.

Gare Du Palais

We enjoyed another amble around, although it was significantly busier than the day before and the queue for the funicular stretched right down the street. Lots of the shops and restaurants had lovely autumn/halloween decorations outside and I couldn’t resist taking some photos. We again sat outside the Pub Des Borgia and had a couple of drinks before ordering a light lunch. I think Quebec was the highlight of the holiday for both of us, the glorious weather helped of course, but it is a beautiful city and at times, it was really difficult to remember that we were in Canada and not Europe. Slideshow of Quebec City photos below.

We made our way back to the train station in plenty of time to catch the train to Montreal. When we had left our luggage, we were told that we would collect it on the platform. Standing in the queue to go to the platform, I noticed the left luggage staff just passing our suitcases to another couple, thankfully the couple declined to take the wrong luggage as they wanted their own! However, if that hadn’t happened, we would have gone onto the platform expecting to find our luggage there when in fact, we needed to collect it from the same counter that we’d taken it to. We then boarded the train only to find a lady sitting in one of our seats, it was at that point we discovered that our train tickets had the date of 5th September on them instead of 5th October. Now, me being the massive over-thinker and worrier that I am, starting panicking like crazy as we sat in another seat. What if someone else got on whose seat this was? What if the train was full and the guard chucked us off? I photographed our ticket and fired off an email to Marion Owen to point out the mistake and to say that if we had to pay any extra, they would be responsible. The train set off and the first station was reached and passengers boarded without anyone needing the seats we had sat in, relief for now. The next station was more than an hour away so we were safe until then at least. When the guard came along, I explained the situation and he was so nice, he said it wasn’t a problem and just took the reference from the ticket so he could change the booking. Panic over.

On arrival in Montreal, we went in search of a taxi to get to our hotel. The driver huffed and puffed a bit and didn’t seem overly keen to take us and our luggage. When he pulled up to the hotel, just five minutes later and a fare of only $10, I understood why. He was obviously hoping for a bigger fare than our short ride. We hadn’t realised how close the hotel was! We could have walked but it was uphill and with our heavy cases, I wouldn’t have fancied the walk to be honest. The hotel was very nice and the room was huge, a studio suite actually with a kitchen area.

As we were really tired we decided to find a supermarket and get something to cook in our room. We found a supermarket in the amazing underground city of Montreal, a complex of shopping malls, office space and subway stations all linked together underneath the city streets. Patrick cooked us a lovely chicken meal and we enjoyed a bottle of wine and a very relaxing evening.

A buffet continental style breakfast was included in our stay so the next morning, we headed to the breakfast room. It was a bit chaotic but we managed to get something to eat and find a seat and we were soon heading off out to walk to Vieux Montreal, which means Old Montreal. Certainly not as picturesque as Vieux Quebec it was still a pleasant area to wander around. A cruise on the St. Lawrence river had been recommended by a distant cousin of mine so that was our plan. However, the cruise at the time we arrived was cancelled and the next one wasn’t for another two hours so we abandoned the idea and set off to see the sights instead. We were starting to get hungry so looked for somewhere to eat. I’d seen a craft beer bar on Google maps when researching and so we decided on that. Brewsky Taproom had plenty of beer choice and a reasonable food menu so we sat outside and ordered a snack of griddled halloumi each. The weather was definitely on the change now and the wind was picking up, rain was forecast too, as if we hadn’t had enough of that at the beginning of the holiday it looked as if we were going to finish as we started – wet! After our lunch we set out again and found the Chateau Ramezay, which was a museum taking you through 500 years of Montreal history. After looking around the traditional French style garden for free, we decided to pay to go inside. It was interesting and it passed an hour or so quite nicely. We enjoyed wandering around and stopped at a juice stall for a fresh lemonade to take into a garden area off the Place Jacques Cartier. Sitting on a bench, we were suddenly aware of a cacophony of twittering and looked around to find ourselves surrounded by sparrows, hoping for a morsel to eat! It was like a scene from Hitchcock. There was a mini Nelson’s column at the top of the square which we found a bit odd as it was commemorating Nelson beating the French! We also found a statue of King Edward VII in Philips Square close by our hotel. It just seemed a bit odd the French Canadians having monuments to British monarchs and military heroes.

The Birds!!

Montreal was always intended to be mostly about winding down really so feeling tired walking back to the hotel, we went to the supermarket again and cooked in the room that evening.

On Saturday, the heavy rain that had been forecast made itself known. We had planned a visit to Montreal Biodome, which turned out to be a good option considering the weather! Originally built for the 1976 Olympic games, it now hosts a zoo with a difference. Each area of the dome explores a different ecosystem from Arctic to tropical forest with plants and animals to match. We took the subway from just around the corner all the way there, this was very different to the New York subway!! The Biodome was understandably, considering the weather outside, rammed! We were a little upset watching the penguins, they just looked so fed up and we thought, didn’t seem to have a lot of space for quite a large number of them. Overall though it was a nice couple of hours out of the rain. We hadn’t at this point known about the underground city, if we had we could have got off the subway sooner and had a walk through some of the malls but instead we went back to where we had got on. We knew there was a pub nearby so headed off there for a couple of beers and a reccy on the food for later. Vieux Dublin (Old Dublin), the oldest Irish pub in Monteal (established 1978 – positively historic!), was about as Irish as I am but the local IPA, Boreale, from Les Brasseurs du Nord hit the spot for us thirsty and weary travellers. The food looked good so we decided to come back later in the evening to eat. Fish and chips and a (not very good) burger, a couple of beers and £90 later, we headed back to the hotel for our final night before the journey home on Sunday.

Sunday was rain on and off but certainly better than the day before so we decided to explore the area around the hotel as we hadn’t really seen much of it. We were just around the corner from Rue de Sainte Catherine, which is in total 11.2km long filled with shops, cafes, bars, theatres and of course, churches. Down some of the side streets, the architecture is so interesting and beautiful so as always, I took a few photos. We popped into a cafe for a sandwich for lunch and then it started raining again. Heading off to Vieux Dublin pub, we thought we could have a couple of beers before catching the shuttle bus to the airport but found it closed. By this time, we were struggling to find somewhere to go or something to do so decided to just head to the airport early and try to relax before our flight. I don’t think we made the best of our time in Montreal, mainly because we were just dog-tired by this point and ready for home. Montreal slideshow below.

Apart from Pierre Trudeau airport being an absolute shambles, with self service terminals and hardly any staff to ask questions of, the journey home was uneventful. I don’t think either of us managed to sleep much though and we were just pleased to land back at Humberside, close to home.