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Of 684 photographs and videos we took on this journey, we are sharing 213 with you.
Day 1: Monday, September 17, 2018. New Berlin, Wisconsin to Ann Arbor, Michigan
We planned on the 345 miles portion taking 5 hours 15 minutes without stopping, which of course we need a rest, even for a bathroom break. We left at 8:15 am and arrived at 3:30 pm after passing through Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. We began in the central time zone and ended in the eastern time zone, gaining one hour.
Near lunchtime, several large billboards advertising The Chocolate Garden in Coloma, Michigan attracted us. Being on vacation, we took a mile detour off the interstate to what looked like a large home in the middle of a peach tree orchid. The “home” turned out to be a retail store with the production of small chocolates treats manufactured upstairs, and sales on the ground floor. The owner had been in business for 20 years and was closing down at the end of the month to rest, relax, and decide on next steps. Aside from a pair of chocolate truffles, Linda has a cup of chocolate mocha, and I had a cup of pure chocolate. To say they were both rich and tasty is an understatement. The detour to break up the journey was worthwhile.
The Marriott Hotel group consists of 30 different brands to satisfy all budgets from the ultra-wealthy executive to ordinary people, retirees like us. Our hotel in Ann Arbor, Michigan was at the affordable Fairfield Inn. This located next to the Courtyard, a bit more upscale for Marriott. Our hotel location consisted of a dozen competing hotels in close walking proximity. We dined at a nearby upscale Sheraton, another member of the Marriott group. We asked at our front desk for restaurant recommendations and provided us a map listing about 50 restaurants known as the “Main Road” area. So why so many hotels and restaurants? Ann Arbor is home to the University of Michigan, the Wolverines, with 46,000 students. There is a business need to house families during the many college activities.
Breakfast is included in the package, and for me was a unique experience. For decades that I traveled on business, checked into a hotel, arrived early for breakfast, ate rapidly, and set out quickly to a client. This was a standard operating procedure. Now being with Linda and unrushed, felt so different. My prior trip to Ann Arbor in October 2016 was not a pleasant experience. The co-owner of Stellium had asked me to meet, stay in a top of the line Marriott, and attend a strategy session. Business was not booming at the time, so rather than conveniently fly, to save money, I drove. My belief was to be at least a half-day meeting. It turned out to be a 45-minute session over breakfast. To say the gall of expecting to drive for 12 hours, pay to stay in a luxury hotel enraged me, all for 45 minutes that we could have managed through a conference call. It was more than I could comprehend.
The journey from home to Ann Arbor was quite hair raising. As is typical in the summer months, we face long stretches of road construction and reduced lanes. In 70 mile an hour speed zones you can expect to be motoring at 15 mph, or 80 mph as the road opens up and the stream of motorists drive like crazy making up for lost time. At spells, it felt like we were driving across numerous railway lines as the car’s suspension was pounded due to uneven road surfaces, while we dodged potholes. At other times, the road surface emitted loud noises from the corrugations, so much so, that Linda played her podcasts at maximum volume so that we could hear above the din of the road.
During my early business days when I worked with The Oliver Wight Companies, the late Ollie Wight had a saying, “Show me a man with a watch, and I’ll show you a man who can tell the time. Show me a man with two watches, and he will not be so sure.” Prior to leaving home, I set the GPS in the car and printed maps using Google maps. Linda and I visited the AAA (American Automobile Association) for regional maps. In addition, while on the journey Linda used her iPhone maps to supply directions. The resources were not consistent. In fact, while driving on the ring road around Chicago, my car’s GPS wanted me to exit at one point. I had driven this road frequently, knew the GPS was wrong and waited for the “recalculating” message as we stayed our course. In fairness with all the road construction and traffic congestion, the GPS recommends an alternate route to speed up the time to the ultimate destination.
Our membership to the Costco wholesale club entitles us to fill up with discounted gasoline prices, and a 4% cash back at year-end. There was a Costco within a mile of our hotel.
View of the Horseshoe Fall from the Canadian side with a rainbow.
Horseshoe Falls, a boatload of spectators getting soaked, with Bridal Veil alongside the US falls.
Horseshoe Falls reflecting 60 tons of dissolved minerals over the falls every minute.
The might of the rapids.
Linda along the White Water Walk viewing the rapids.
Day 2: Tuesday, September 18, 2018. Ann Arbor, Michigan to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada.
The hour-long drive from Ann Arbor to Detroit, Michigan to cross the border to Windsor, Ontario in Canada was more of the same. Road construction with speeds ranging from a near standstill to 80 MPH. On the US side, we paid a $5 toll to use the bridge crossing into Canada. Canadian customs were more than pleasant, but concerned that being Americans we were loaded with guns, ammunition, and mace! We were not. Windsor looked no different from any US city with all the familiar fast food restaurants, and retail stores. Driving was another story. The interstates were three-lane wide with sections being upgraded or maintained. One big difference was converting from the archaic imperial system of miles used in the US to the modern metric system of Canada’s in kilometers. The speed limits were lower at 100 kilometers per hour equivalent to 62 MPH, versus the US 70. The car’s GPS did an admirable job of showing speed limits in MPH so no conversions needed or trying to read the tiny km/h writing on the car’s speedometer. The Canadians take speed limits seriously. They post warnings of fines that will be if imposed if you drive over the speed limit, and the number of demerit points you will incur. At 50% over the speed limit, or 150 km/h, your car is impounded and driving privileges revoked. However, we did see a few motorists testing the limits. Not us though.
Driving toward Niagara, taking another 4 hours, was much like driving in Nebraska in the US. Farmland for miles on end. Canadian roads were in better condition, smoother, quieter, and great driving experience, with the regulation to drive slower. On the 3-lane highways, we did encounter numerous trucks occupying both the slow and center lanes. This is Canadian law. We made a stop around lunchtime. Linda used her trusty iPhone to find a Starbucks. It was located in a large shopping mall that provided an opportunity to stroll and stretch our legs after a long drive. The Starbucks was located in the food court along with a wide variety of available cuisine.
This was not the first time we have been to Niagara. When we arrived in the US, 31 years earlier, we decided to visit Fourie’s in Toronto. In December 1987, we drove and visited the falls. We were too ignorant to know that the middle of winter is not the time to drive in North America. We only saw the US side of the falls. We recall paths and guardrails iced up, and naturally freezing cold. This time our experience was very different. We checked into La Papillion bed-and-breakfast in Niagara-on-the Lake, Ontario and headed off to see the sights at the falls. Now in Canada, we saw the falls from the other side of the river. There are three falls: the US Falls, the small Bridal Veil alongside this fall, and the main Horseshoe Fall. Aside from viewing the majesty of the falls, there is much to see.
We visited the White Water Walk requiring an elevator ride, down 38 meters/125 feet, to walk along the rapids. This boardwalk allows spectators to get up close and personal with the raging waters.
The videos and photographs beg many questions.
Why is the water green?
This is due to the river’s erosive power. An estimated 60 tons of dissolved minerals are swept over the Niagara Falls every minute. The color comes from the dissolved salts and “rock flour” (very finely ground rock) picked up primarily from the limestone bed but also from the shale and sandstone under the cap at the falls.
Why is the water so foamy?
The brown foam below Niagara Falls and along the rapids is a natural result of tons of water plummeting into the depths below. It is not dangerous. The brown color is clay, which contains suspended particles of decayed vegetative matter. It is mostly from the shallow eastern basin of Lake Erie to the south.
How does the Niagara River support birding?
The Niagara River is a critical winter-feeding area for birds. The river’s swift current keeps it ice-free assuring birds have access to water when many other waterways are frozen over. The fast-moving waters carry a steady supply of small fish, such as alewives and shiners that make up an important part of bird diets.
Lake Sturgeon Fish.
Lake Sturgeon is a prehistoric fish, dating back 135 million years. Canada’s largest freshwater fish is over 6½ feet (2 meters) and weighs up to 300 pounds (136 kilograms). A cold-water species that lives 55 to 80 years. Until the mid-1800s, Lake Sturgeon was considered a nuisance species to be discarded, dried, and burned as firewood, or used as fertilizer. This resulted in over-fishing, which combined with pollution and destruction of spawning habitat caused the population to crash. In later years, the value of their flesh and caviar, and skin for leather was recognized. Today, Lake Sturgeon is protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act.
We enjoyed a delightful dinner at a quintessentially British style restaurant, Queen Victoria Place, where the birds enjoyed the ambiance as they walk the floor of the restaurant, and fly between patrons.
The bed and breakfast in the quaint town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is a private home owned by an elderly couple who converted each of the three bedrooms into a self-contained bed with bathroom. We stayed in The Admiral room. Ours consisted of a large comfortable double bed, and a tiny bathroom with a shower just big enough to turn around in and toilet sandwiched between the shower tub and wall.
Uncorking Sparkling Wine.
Day 3: Wednesday, September 19, 2018. Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario to Mississauga, Ontario
The husband and wife team of our bed and breakfast, Le Papillon, are Patrice and Louis. Louis is retired but works as a guide at the nearby Trius Winery and Restaurant. The breakfast prepared by the couple was the treat of the stay. Here we met the two other couples. A couple from central Canada, the other from Switzerland. The conversation was lively with us all exchanging our backgrounds and travel experiences.
Sightseeing in this community was breathtakingly beautiful. We were not aware that Canada is famous for its wines grown in the Niagara-on-the-Lake region. Sadly, due to USA restrictions, exporting wines to the US is near impossible, so their wines are not well known, or sort after in America. Niagara-on-the-Lake was settled in the 1700s; with several homes, reflecting dates built in the 1800s. We did some wine, fruit, and chocolate shopping at the Trius Winery and Restaurant to take as gifts to Marilyn and Philip Fourie in Toronto later in the day. This would turn out to be a 90-minute drive. I was not necessary too enthusiastic about attending the hour-long wine tour, and sampling four wines before 11:00 am. Dan, a retired schoolteacher, did an outstanding job of explaining the history of winemaking, where the Canadians sourced their vines and walked and talked us through the total winemaking process. Seeing the wine storage area that is temperature and humidity controlled was interesting. Dan’s presentation was such an admirable performance that I added a very positive review to TripAdvisor. Dan’s demonstration of how to uncork a bottle of sparkling wine was classical showmanship. Usage of the term “Champagne” is forbidden as it is legally restricted to wines from the Champagne region of France. Dan’s explanation of Icewine was fascinating, and the tasting even better. Icewine is a dessert wine produced from frozen grapes while still on the vine. The sugars do not freeze, but the water content does, allowing a more concentrated grape juice to develop. It is sold in tall and narrow 375 ml bottles, costing between $60 and $100 per bottle. I can attest to the fact that it is a unique drinking experience. We were treated to Icewine again while visiting Tony and Fiona Goddard in Rochester, NY a few days later.
Wayne Douglas Gretzky was a Canadian professional ice hockey player from 1979 to 1999 and later head coach. Aside from being Canada’s greatest ice hockey player, he is also a successful businessperson. Among other ventures, he is the owner of Wayne Gretzky’s restaurant in Toronto, and has a stake in the vineyards that we toured—but I do not know the finer details. Wayne Gretzky Estates is Niagara’s only winery and distillery. Wayne’s estate (at #1219) and Trius (#1249) are both located on Niagara Stone Road.
That afternoon we headed to Phillip and Marilyn Fourie, family members who we had not seen in many years since they visited us for Robyn and Darin’s wedding in 2001. Phillip is more than a gourmet cook, and accomplish artist, so we were entertained with many great meals.
To clarify a point. Phillip and Marilyn live in Mississauga, just outside Toronto. I frequently write about them living in the better-known city of Toronto. It is much the same as me telling people that we live in Milwaukee when in reality we live in New Berlin. Depending on whom I am speaking with, I may even say that we live north of Chicago. After all, who outside our geographical area has heard of New Berlin, Wisconsin, a city of only 40,000 inhabitants?
For those of us without a creative streak, I added 3 photographs taken in Bo-Kaap, a community Linda and I toured in November 2017.
Day 4: Thursday, September 20, 2018. Mississauga and Toronto.
Marilyn works for the National Ballet School of Canada as an Executive Assistant to the Board of Directors. Marilyn and Phillip guided us for several hours around this world-class facility. “Established in 1959 by Betty Oliphant and Celia Franca, Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS) is one of the world’s foremost training institutions for aspiring young dancers and teachers. Attracting students from across the country and around the world, NBS is the only ballet academy in North America to provide elite dance training, academic instruction and residential care on the same campus. The School’s progressive curriculum, with its emphasis on the physical and emotional well-being of the student, has put NBS at the forefront of dance training internationally. Talent is the sole criterion for acceptance into the NBS’ Professional Ballet Program.
“NBS also offers a professional Teacher Training Program, a Musician Mentorship Program and Community Classes for both children and adults. The Associates Program offers classes after school and on weekends for students between the ages of 6 and 17, while the School’s popular Adult Ballet Program offers classes in the evenings and on weekends to adults of all fitness levels and dance experience.”
Sepe was one of South Africa’s star pupils trained by the ballet school. He originally trained in Montagu, Western Cape. “Siphesihle November was born in Worcester South Africa and trained at Canada’s National Ballet School. Mr. November joined the National Ballet of Canada as a member of the Corps de Ballet in 2017.
“Mr. November recently made his debut as Bluebird in The Sleeping Beauty and has danced in such ballet as The Nutcracker, Nijinsky, The Winter’s Tale, The Four Seasons, Emergence, Paz de la Jolla and The Dreamers Ever Leave You.”
In 2015 Fiona Sargent and her husband Mitya, started their non-profit organization, DANCESCAPE South Africa. The focus is on developing our youth, in disadvantaged rural communities, through dance. Her incredible gift was to work with and develop young people so they may use the opportunities that DFA and Dancescape gave them to change their lives through dance. In 2011, two of the students. Aviwe and Mthuthuzeli November received bursaries to the Cape Academy of Performing Arts (CAPA) and they have both achieved greatness in their careers. Siphe November’s talent was nurtured to give him the privilege and opportunity of continuing his training at the Canadian National Ballet School. Sadly, Fiona lost her battle with cancer on September 23, 2017.
During November 21, 2018, as the National Ballet of Canada presents the second part of its hometown fall season, November is the only corps member among four men, two of them principal dancers, chosen to perform the challenging role of Puck in a revival of Frederick Ashton’s magical and comic masterpiece The Dream. It’s a major role debut that demands technique, athleticism and stamina, crucially combined with acute dramatic and musical sensitivity. November has all the right stuff, according to National Ballet associate artistic director Christopher Stowell,
I was highly impressed with the property development taking place in the Toronto region. Here too I have visited Toronto on several occasions for business, and to see the significant number of 20 and higher story high-rise apartments and condominiums signifies a flourishing economy. The building boom in the area is remarkable. The arterial roads are somewhat congested, and generally in better condition than those I have experienced in the Milwaukee and Chicago areas. Having Phillip available to guide us made our stay all the more enjoyable. After a long day, we came home to another of his fantastic meals. Philip is an artist and getting an opportunity to enjoy his art was an additional treat.
One additional observation in Canada is that the country displays a booming economy. Most of the vehicles are late models, including Tesla’s and Porches that are plentiful. It has an absence of large SUVs that dominates US roads. As mentioned earlier, there is a building boom. Provinces are willing to invest in new or expanding existing roads and maintenance.
The city of Toronto encourages property developers to allocate a minimum of 1 percent of every project’s construction costs on public art. Many of the new condominiums and commercial buildings have large sculptures, murals, quilts, and custom photographs in their lobbies, hallways, and outdoor areas. This helps bring a community feel to shared spaces. This has helped artists to prosper.
Day 5: Friday, September 21, 2018. Mississauga, Ontario to Montreal, Quebec.
After yet again a special breakfast prepared by Phillip, we set off on the 350 miles, 6 hour journey to Montreal. The road was not as busy volume wise with trucks and motor cars as we experienced driving into Toronto. With these long stretches, I found that most motorists were not afraid to drive beyond the posted 100 km/h (62 MPH) speed limit. As we neared Montreal we encountered slow traffic, and at one stage, we were standing still on the motorway. We arrived at our Hotel de Paris, in the heart of Montreal located on the main thoroughfare, Sherbrooke Street East. We did not stay in the small main hotel building, but across the road in another small building owned by this private hotel. We paid for parking for 3 days as we did not want to keep our vehicle on the street, and the hotel provided us parking in another nearby building. Situated in the old city, the hotel was correspondingly old. Our room was small with a bathroom featuring a round shower, 90-degree walls on two sides, and just big enough to fit your body. The bathroom contained a small hand basin and toilet. Our double bed had one terrible feature. The mattress squeaked each time one of us turned and worse yet if you had to get out of bed in the night for a bathroom break, you did wake your spouse. The hotel served our purpose, and conveniently located to tour the old city.
Montreal is one of the few major North American cities to have preserved its historical center. Here you find the remains of the old walled city, and narrow winding streets dating back to the French colony. There are majestic Victorian buildings from the 18th and 19th century. Montreal was founded on May 17, 1642 (376 years ago).
We arrived late in the afternoon, took a walk around the local area, and decided to have dinner at the Taiwanese restaurant in the hotel. This day we elected to have an early night.
3 photographs showing the gardens outside the Chateau Ramezay–historic site and Museum of Montreal; Marche Bonsecours (Bonsecours Market, the place for all things made in Québec ); 2 photographs of the outside of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel/Marguerite-Bourgeoys Museum (known as the “sailors’ church”); 5 photographs inside the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel; Jacques-Cartier Basin.
10K Marathon in Montreal. Note the South African flag.
End of the race. Not necessarily the youngest or seemingly fittest participants. A fun experience for runners and spectators.
Day 6: Saturday, September 22, 2018. Montreal’s old city.
The hotel provided a continental breakfast after which we started a tour of the old city. Our grand plan of walking to see the sights was interrupted by a 10K marathon being run in the city resulting in some intersections to be blocked as they were barricaded to give runners clear access. At this juncture, we were not smart enough or experienced to find our way across or under the barriers, a method we later learned. As you will see in the video, there were plenty of seniors taking place in this race. Our first stop was Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal. Inaugurated in 1829, the church features magnificent artwork, stain glass windows, and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Our sightseeing took us to another church—Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel. This was founded in 1655, and is known as the “sailor’s church”. We visited many attractions including the port area, market places such as Place Jacques-Cartier, and Place d’Armes. Later we strolled through China Town.
Chateau Ramezay built in 1705 by Pierre Couturier as a residence for Claude de Ramezay, Governor of Montreal. It transformed into a museum in 1895, presenting its magnificent collection and gardens.
Montreal has 32 kilometers (20 miles) of interlinked “underground city”. A series of interconnected office towers, hotels, shopping centers, residential and commercial complexes, convention halls, universities and performing arts venues that form the heart of Montreal’s central business district, colloquially referred to as Downtown Montreal. The name refers to the underground connections between the buildings that compose the network, in addition to the network’s complete integration with the city’s underground rapid transit system, the Montreal Metro. Weather conditions in winter drive the population underground so that they can dine, shop, and reach businesses in warm comfort.
We walked portions of the underground city and found a restaurant Terra Verde, owned by a father and son team. The father was born in Lebanon and moved to Montreal 40 years ago. He spoke English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Arabic. The quality of the food was great, the cost very reasonable, and the conversation priceless. Montreal is home to people speaking 80 different languages. Walking around you get to see how delightfully cosmopolitan the city is.
To be accurate, we found most of these underground walkways deserted. Why use them when the weather outside is so gorgeous. We did venture into and through portions of them to learn how this convenient facility functioned. If I am allowed a criticism, the absence of signposting made navigation very difficult.
This day we walked 10.5 miles.
As we learned in both Montreal and later Québec City, this is French territory. Linda’s French through high school did little to support us. With a single exception of a house cleaner at our hotel, everyone we dealt with was fluent in English and French.
Day 7: Sunday, September 23, 2018. Montreal Botanical gardens
One quirk of common Montreal parlance is that directions (north, south, east, and west) along the street grid are sharply skewed relative to the actual compass directions. The St. Lawrence River is taken as flowing west to east (even though it flows north or northeast past the island), so that directions along streets parallel to the river are referred to as “west” and “east,” and those along streets perpendicular to the river, “north” and “south.” In much of Montreal, “north” is actually northwest, and in some areas such as Verdun and Pointe-aux-Trembles it is actually due west. “Montreal directions” are used in naming street addresses and describing bus routes, among other things. As a result of this discrepancy, Montreal has been called “the only city where the sun sets in the north.” Directions are according to traditional Montreal map where downtown (example, rue Sherbrooke) is east-west, with Mont-Royal to the north and the river to the south. “North” on the Victoria bridge is actually south-west.
Sherbrooke Street is the main thoroughfare in Montreal. This day Montreal had a 40-kilometer marathon, but our plans did not conflict with the runners. We walked north (according to our iPhone compass) on Sherbrooke one hour to visit the Montreal Botanical gardens, or to provide its full name in French “Jardin Botanique de Montréal”. The garden is one of the largest in the world. It comprises 75 hectares (190 acres) of thematic gardens and greenhouses. We took 5 hours 30 minutes to walk its grounds and I do not believe that we saw 10% of available fauna and flora. The gardens are so impressive that it would be worth visiting Montreal just to see the botanical gardens. We walked a total of 12.5 miles this day. What a great day. We ate at the restaurant in the gardens twice. We had a morning tea break and dinner in the evening. We were impressed with the food and prices. During our wanderings, we visited the Japanese and Chinese gardens.
The Chinese collection consists mainly of donations from the Shanghai Botanical Gardens and is the largest outside of Asia. The garden designed in keeping with Chinese traditions. Yin and yang, opposing yet complementary principles, are represented mainly by the use of water and stone.
The Japanese garden is 2.5 hectares (6 acres), with each tree, shrub, and stone carefully arranged. The bonsai garden was a special attraction with its rare beauty. Trees range from 25 to over 350 years old.
Milwaukee has the Domes, a collection of 3 greenhouses catering for different climates. The Montreal Botanical Gardens has nine chambers to house different plant types. The amount of detail provided is overwhelming and hosts a significant amount of facts that to do this garden justice would require several days, if not weeks to get a full appreciation. Locals get free access. We spoke to an elderly couple who walk the gardens daily. We saw great views of the Olympic Park set alongside the gardens, built to accommodate the 1976 Summer Olympics, and since been host to more than one hundred million visitors.
We did a bus tour where I sat upstairs on the London style bus for a short, very cold duration to capture this scene.
Day 8: Monday, September 24, 2018. Montreal to Québec City, Québec.
After a tasty meal at our bed and breakfast hotel in Montreal, we hit the road for Québec City. The 160-mile journey, scheduled to take 3 hours, took longer after we stopped to fill up with gas, and top-up at Tim Hortons with a cappuccino and cruller doughnut. We checked in at the Auberge Aux Deux Lions hotel in the center of Québec City. This we rated to be the best hotel we stayed in during our travels. Arriving too early to get into our room, we walked to the old city behind the walls to see the sights. Today we accomplished only 7 miles walking.
Québec City sits on the Saint Lawrence River in Canada’s mostly French-speaking Québec province. Dating to 1608, it has a fortified colonial core, Vieux-Québec, and Place Royale, with stone buildings and narrow streets. This area is the site of the towering Château Frontenac Hotel and imposing Citadelle of Québec. The Petit Champlain district’s cobblestone streets are lined with bistros and boutiques. Québec City is the capital of Québec province, with a population of 530,000 and a metropolitan population of 800,000. The Algonquian people had originally named the area Kébec, an Algonquin word meaning, “where the river narrows”. Québec must be written with the accented é in both English and French. Québec City is located on the north bank of the Saint Lawrence River.
The Saint Lawrence Seaway is a system of locks, and canals in Canada and the United States that permits ocean-going vessels to travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, serving Lake Superior and Lake Erie. Boaters can navigate 6,100 miles (9,800 kilometers) from Québec City to New Orleans, Louisiana on the Gulf of Mexico.
In the late afternoon, we took a 2-hour conducted bus tour of the old and new city. The video I took from the upper deck of the bus had me freezing, but provided a great view for photographs. Later we purchased a warmer jacket as I had not packed warm enough clothing. Linda bought a scarf, gloves, and a hat for the cold weather. We ate at an Italian restaurant for dinner, one that was recommended by the tour guide. Finally checked into our room after 7:30 pm. The weather forecast for the next day was afternoon rain, so we planned carefully in the morning how to get the most out of our day. More bad news: parking in any central city is a challenge. The hotel provided a parking spot just off the street nearby. It required that I back into a small ally space, leaving just enough room so that I could get out of the driver side door. I managed to scrape the front side fender on a metal railing. When I get back home I will decide if I get this touched up. I know it is not that bad, but it is my first scrape.
Day 9: Tuesday, September 25, 2018, Québec City
The day began with a continental breakfast at our hotel. We joined a 2-hour walking tour that took us to the old city area. Once more learned about Québec City. It has the lowest crime rate of any city in North America. Walking home after dark late last night, we saw several women, young and old, striding it out alone without a care in the world. The rain began at about 10:00 am today but was not enough to spoil the day. After lunch, we toured the Citadelle. Since 1920, the Citadelle has been the home station of the Royal 22 Régiment of the Canadian Forces. The young offer, quite fluent in English, did a masterful job of entertaining us with its history and accomplishments while showing pride for his regiment.
As we made our way back to the hotel, we stopped in at Chez AshTon the original restaurant to introduce Poutine, a very tasty fare that could do a number on your heart. Poutine is a dish originating from the Canadian province of Québec, consisting of French fries and cheese curds topped with brown gravy. The dish emerged in the late 1950s, in the Centre-du-Québec area, and has long been associated with the cuisine of Québec.
Learning the customs and laws of a city is interesting. Pedestrians wishing to cross the road must do so when the signal indicates it is safe to walk. You trigger a switch to activate the crosswalk lights. Crossing against a light will cost you $160. I found it amazing that if you wish to cross a road, then cross to the opposite side, you can jaywalk (diagonally) legally. The motorists are extremely polite. If you cross in front of them, they will stop for you. The streets have yellow “zebra” crossings in some places; here motorists are obliged to stop for pedestrians. I asked the guide about motor cars. By comparison, in the US large SUVs dominate the streets. Here, the guide told me, Canadians prefer European style vehicles, smaller cars. In addition, gasoline is 50% higher than in the US.
We were in and out of churches again today. I photographed the outside of a very old church near our hotel. It will be demolished within the next two weeks.
Day 10: Wednesday, September 26, 2018, Québec City
Today can be best defined as a more refined day, mostly due to the inclement weather. We traded the breakfast in the hotel for a breakfast across the road at Tim Hortons. Tim Hortons Inc. is a multinational fast food restaurant known for its coffee and donuts. It is also Canada’s largest quick service restaurant chain; as of December 31, 2016, it had 4,613 restaurants in nine countries. We have seen a few Tim Hortons in the US. The company is a holding of publically traded Restaurant Brands International (RBI). RBI is majority owned by 3G Capital, a Brazilian investment company with 51%. Fast food brands include Burger King, Popeyes, and Tim Hortons. RBI has 24,000 restaurants in more than 100 countries.
We walked to the Québec Parliament House to take part in an English guided tour where the guide provided historical information and contemporary detail. They have two restaurants, a café style, and a formal dining room where they served a 3-course meal including soup, the main entrée, dessert, coffee, and wine or beer. Linda and I loved royalty treatment. We ate off the very best china by Noritake, with expensive cutlery, genuine cloth napkins/serviettes, and very smartly dressed servers. This enhanced the taste of the fine cuisine.
As tourists, we do make mistakes. We thought that we were going on the Saint Lawrence River to be part of a conducted tour, but we ended up on a ferry ride to get to the mainland across the river. Had we done the trip at night, we would be able to see the lights of Québec City. The tours started at the dock alongside the one we boarded.
On the return walk, we detoured via the Hotel Le Concorde to have drinks at Ciel! Bistro-bar, a rotating restaurant on the 28th floor. The rotation takes an hour featuring an unparalleled 360-degree view of the city. To access the restaurant we used the glass elevator on the outside of the hotel. It was a scary ride with an awesome view. Having just eaten we ordered a drink, and nuts to provide an excuse to sit and experience the complete vista.
This was the least energetic day because of the rain, and only accomplished walking 5 miles. We retired early to catch up on reading ahead of a long driving day tomorrow, as we head back into the USA and Lake Placid.
Day 11: Thursday, September 27, 2018, Québec City to Lake Placid, New York
Today we left Québec City, Canada and drove the 260 miles in 5 hours to Lake Placid, New York, home to the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. A quaint town where we walked 5 miles and enjoyed a quality dinner at the Black Bear Restaurant. The biggest surprise was to find a tribute to John D. “Jack” Barry who died at 83 on Tuesday, May 1, 2007, at the Adirondack Medical Center after a long illness. Not sure, and in fact doubt, he is a blood relative. Thursday we are off to Rochester, New York.
Driving through the Adirondack Mountains, beware stray birds and animals. Enjoy the fall colors.
Day 12: Friday, September 28, 2018, Lake Placid, NY to Rochester, NY
For the first 3 hours of our 5-hour trip and for the first 130 miles of our 260-mile trip we drove from Lake Placid, New York on route to Rochester, New York through the Adirondack Mountain range. I believe this is the first time in my driving career that I did not exceed the speed limit once. The entire route is tree-lined, starting to reveal its autumn colors. A breathtakingly beautiful sight. The road took us up the mountain slopes and down into the valleys, repeatedly. There was hardly more than a few hundred yards without the road curving to the left or right, or up or down. We had to break once for a turkey in the road, and while I concentrated fully on driving the slalom, Linda spotted a wolf and a deer on the side of the road. If the tall trees were not majestic enough, we lost count of the number of lakes and rivers we passed along the way. Multiple villages and towns sprang out of nowhere to add relief from the trees and lakes. Some looked one or two hundred years old, some in a state of disrepair, yet others well maintained. Many buildings isolated far from civilization. In contrast, numerous homes, restaurants, and businesses were new. We were fascinated with a few large schools along the way. This area is subject to harsh winters with ice and snow covered roads. It was not surprising to see a concentration of Subaru’s on the road, engineered and ready to take on whatever nature will send its way. This drive is worth a visit again, soon, one day.
Rochester was an opportunity to celebrate with former South Africans. We learned about New York State Law. We stopped in at a large grocery store, Wegmans. We enquired about purchasing wine. They informed us that that are only permitted to sell wine with extremely low alcohol content, something they would not recommend we purchase. They recommended purchasing from a liquor store next door. We bought wine from the liquor store and asked to buy cold beer. No, under state law, the liquor stores cannot sell beer, but we can procure it from Wegmans!
Day 13: Saturday, September 29, 2018
Today was a quieter day spent with friends. We stayed with Tony and Fiona in Penfield, outside Rochester, New York. Tony’s sister Jenny and husband Gerrit Beker from New Zealand were visiting. This was the motivation for our trip. Linda and Jen were at school together for 12 years, graduating high school in 1966. They wanted an opportunity to catch up face-to-face to share years of experiences. The morning was spent walking along Lake Ontario, where we racked up 7 miles. After lunch, we walked around town including the restaurant district.
Day 14: Sunday, September 30, 2018
Today we walked a total of 6 miles. In the morning, we walked with Fiona along a tiny portion of the Erie Canal that runs from Buffalo (where it meets Lake Erie), New York (where it meets the Hudson River to Albany, NY. In the afternoon, we spent 3 hours on a tour of the George Eastman Museum, the founder of Kodak. It was more than fascinating to learn about the life and achievements of this great man. The word “Kodak” was first registered as a trademark in 1888. George Eastman and his mother invented the name.
Tomorrow, Monday, we begin the journey back home, arriving on Tuesday. This has been an exceptionally great time visiting many fabulous cities and sites, but especially visiting great family and friends.
Day 15: Monday, October 1, 2018
Today on the homeward journey, we started in Rochester, New York with an overnight stop in Toledo, Ohio. Distance covered 375 miles, taking 6 hours. We have now driven over 2,000 miles. I can report, without contradiction, that the most dangerous drivers live in the Cleveland, Ohio area. We drove around that city in heavy traffic for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. During that period, we saw a motorcyclist weave in and out of traffic speeding up to 100 miles per hour in a 55 mph zone. We saw a motorist reading a book while driving in heavy traffic unable to see what was taking place on the road. We saw several motorists having great difficulty staying in their lane while taking on their cell phone. There were several overhead signs warning of the danger of driving while drug addicted. Obviously a problem in this community. We had one motorist driving a Subaru latch on to my rear bumper. I was so annoyed and learned why road rage is common in the US. I told Linda I was going to hit my brakes. I did. He veered to the left shoulder of the road, and back behind me. I was in the fast lane of a three-lane highway. He proceeded to move to the center lane, shot past me and pulled in front of me. Without too much driving distance trying to intimidate me, while I pulled back to give him space. He recklessly shot over to the right lane across three lanes and took an exit ramp. This is not typical of the behavior we have experience in our neighborhood, nor seen this behavior in other cities, or roads, as we traveled in Canada and the northern US. The bad news: we only walked 3 miles today. We set one record this year by dining at McDonald’s for lunch along the drive, and dinner near our hotel. This because we had no other choice. That makes it eating a total of twice at McDonald’s for this year on a single day.
The Fairfield Inn hotel we stayed at in Toledo, Ohio was an experience as well. This based on the community where the hotel is located. If you want more details, contact me. In brief, this community appears to consist of obese and a poorer class of people. We saw that in the restaurant we dined in and the stores we shopped in. This was not the America we have grown to love in 31 years.
Day 16: Tuesday, October 2, 2018
We made it back home safely with the realization that it is wonderful to be home. The experience was great, as was visiting friends and family. In planning this trip, we estimated that the travel distance would be 2,464 miles. We underestimated by 1.25% and actually traveled 2,495 miles. The 13 tolls totaled $32.23 including IL, NY, and OH. I will not share the expense budget, other than to say we overshot that dramatically—but it really contributed to the enjoyment of our experience. The hotel we stayed in last night came with strobe lights in our bedroom. In the center of the room, they had a ceiling mounted smoke detector. On either side of the detector was a tiny LED (light emitting diode). Naturally, we did not see this as we turned off the lights and shut our eyes. In the early morning as we were walking we saw the two LEDs flashing every second for a second, repeating for 12 seconds, then burn brightly, and restarted the flashing process all over again. The hotel served a great breakfast so we did not complain. That beat out the more upscale Courtyard hotel we stayed at on the previous Thursday night. Here we had to pay for breakfast, as it was not included in the room rate. They served Starbucks coffee—cold, and the over medium eggs were served mostly raw. We sat outside the kitchen and they had a portable 4-part tall screen to hide the view from the kitchen staff. The manager knocked the screen over but fortunately fell away from us. It was a loud bang, and if we were not awake before, we certainly were now.
I am sure that we will plan additional trips to learn more about a great continent we live on.
Updated November 3, 2019