Ottawa & Montreal

Tues. July 25, 2006- Amherst, N.Y.

          We were up early at 6 A.M. We finished packing, prepped for the trip and then headed out the door at 6:45 A.M., bound for Gananoque, in the 1,000 islands. A stop at Tim HortonÕs, for Coffee and egg sandwiches, and we then got on the N.Y. Thruway, Eastbound. Traffic was moderately heavy, even for this early hour.

          Two hours later, near Syracuse, we picked up Rte. I-81 North and headed up into the Tug Hill Plateau area. Gas was $3.11 a gallon. The fir trees, and the bucolic scenery of the area, much belie the horrendous snowfalls that blanket the area in Winter. It lies on the East end of Lake Ontario and gets the same Òlake effectÓ snow fall that Buffalo gets from Lake Erie. We passed Fort Drum, home of the 10t
h Mountain Division at Watertown, and then crossed the Canadian border and the St. Lawrence River near Alexandria Bay. The crossing here was easy and traffic was sparce. We had our passports with us. Canadian customs was perfunctory.

          A brief 15 km drive, along rural Rte. #2 West, took us to Gananoque. We had stayed in this quaint village a few years back. We parked near the picturesque Gananoque Inn. It is a marvelous Queen Anne style Inn, with rear porches, porticos and a steeply gabled roof line. We walked the nearby neighborhood, enjoying the wonderful architecture. Solid brick, Georgian-style churches line Stone Street. There are several attractive Queen Anne style,wooden homes along this street. Each features delicate lace carvings in wood, on the gabled  and high peaked roofs. Ganaoque has been around since the late 1700Õs. It served as a provisioning port, between Montreal
/ and the English settlements in Lower Canada. The rascally Americans had burned the place, during the War of 1812,  to shut the British military supply line down. The Natives were still unhappy about it. Maybe that's why Indians and British soldiers, from the ButlerÕs Rangers, burned Buffalo to the ground a few months later.

       We walked along the River and sat for a time in Joel Stone Park. He was the unlucky British Subaltern who had been routed from town by the rascally Americans, before they torched everything. His name now graces many local streets and buildings. A few buses of aging tourists were milling about. Ganaoque is a jumping off point for many of the St. Lawrence River tours of the 1,000 islands. Most stop at picturesque Boldt Castle and also in Alexandria Bay, on the American side.

<     It was hot, humid and in the 80Õs out. We walked back to the Ganaoque Inn and settled in for a nice lunch at ÒSmokie Stovers,Ó a quaint bar and shaded, open porch of the Inn, over looking the harbor. We had some pretty decent Greeks salads and que sedias, with iced tea, as we enjoyed the beautiful visage of the riverside town. ($28)

     After lunch we drove along the picturesque riverside parkway, stopping to check out the new golf course at ÒSmugglerÕs Glen.Ó It had been carved out of the Pines and rock. It looked challenging to play. It sits across the road from where we were staying for the evening, at ÒThe Glen House resort.Ó It is a small complex, of two story buildings, that sits along a quiet inlet of the St. Lawrence River. The place has indoor and outdoor pools and a wonderful view of the river. Welle
sly Island blocked our view of the shipping channel, so we didn'tÕ get to see the huge ocean going freighters that motor up and down the river. None the less, it is picture post card pretty. We checked into our room, #147 of the Hickory Woods section, ($170 night) and then walked down to the water to sit and enjoy the bright sunshine on the river. Happy laughter from piccolo mostri (little monsters) emanated from the pool. It was a beautiful afternoon.

      It was mid afternoon and we were tiring from the day and the 4 hr. drive. We sipped a glass of Cabernet, as we read our books and then drifted off to sleep for a pleasant conversation with Ozzie nelson. (nap) We cleaned up some after our nap and walked over to the dining room of the resort. It has large floor to ceiling windows and a great view of the River. Most of the tables were filled with happy diners. We sat down and enjoyed some red pepper soup,  stuffed trout and a salad bar. It was classic Canadian Òboiled and broiled.Ó It is decent enough, but
 as bland as Irish cooking, if their is such a thing. We enjoyed the meal and our surroundings, counting ourselves lucky to be here hale and healthy, sipping wine and enjoying a meal at a nice resort. It is the little things in life we begin to appreciate.

      The evening was gorgeous. We walked along the River for a bit then sat in front of our rooms, admiring the visage of the River and the comings and goings along it. Small boats drifted by,in no hurry. People were fishing from row boats or canoing for exercise. It was both bucolic and restful. You could sit a long time watching a scene like this. Far to the South, across the St.Lawrence, we could see the dim flashes of lightning illuminating the sky. Someone, not far away, was getting a pounding from a ferocious rain storm. I read the ÒHour GameÓ by David Baldacci and then drifted into the arms of Morpheus. It had been a nice day.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006- Gananoque, Ontario- Canada

     We were up early at 7 A.M. A dewy fog had blank
"eted the River. Wisps of gray tendril, fog-smoke drifted around our complex. We had coffee in the room, packed and prepped for the day, checking out at 9:00 A.M. We followed Rte.#401 East to Rte.#416 North and then #417 East towards Ottawa. The surrounding countryside is rural, with conical silos, the odd brace of horses and farm houses dotting the countryside. 

      On #417, we exited onto Metcalf St. and took a circuitous route through the city along Slater Rd to Elgin. We pulled up in front of the Lord Elgin Hotel. It is a solid, multi
-story edifice built in the 1940Õs. Check-in was a bit hectic, as the beleaguered valet scurried to the hotel lot to retrieve exiting cars and park incoming. We were assigned Rm. #448. It was spacious and clean. At $139 per night, it was a bargain for Ottawa. We unpacked and settled in. As we were leaving, a fire alarm sounded and the building emptied. We were headed out any ways and followed the exiting throngs to the street below.

      We espied a small Starbucks, at Elgin and Slater, and settled in for coffee a
nd croissants. Then, we found and walked along the Sparks Street Pedestrian Mall. It is a six-blocks long string of open air restaurants, tourist shops, street performers and office workers, lolling for lunch or a break. We listened to a musical group, watched another street actor and then browsed a few shops, buying some postcards and stamps. It was warm, sunny and hot out.

      From Sparks Street, we walked up to Parliament Hill, a few blocks over. In a U shaped Court are three principal government buildings. They are an eye catching combination of London and Paris in the 1600Õs, though constructed here in the 1860Õs. The 1867 Act of Confederation, by the British Parliament, had established Canada as a separate nation. Queen Victoria had selected Ottawa as the site of the ne
/w nationÕs capital. It sits strategically on the Ottawa River, astride the border of Ontario and Quebec Provinces. The Main building looks more like the English Parliament than the real item in London. Roof lines, flourished in black wrought iron, and the cathedral shaped windows reflected the beauty of the French influence on the two flanking buildings. The green copper roofs, waving Maple leaf flags and crowds of tourists gave it a holiday flavor. The sky was an impossible blue and the bright sun showed the area off to advantage.

     We walked by and admired a casting of females in bronze, a tribute to the early leaders of the Canadian Suffragette movement. Queen Elizabeth, astride a magnificent copper steed, was next. In various other monuments you can read in copper, about John McDonald, the natio
InÕs first Prime Minister and other worthies of the emerging Canadian nation. In 1867, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Ontario and New Brunswick had been merged into the New Nation of Canada.

     Behind the Main Parliament building sits an elegant Library, circular in shape and faced in brown brick. It is surrounded by flying buttresses like the rear of Notre Dame Cathedral, in Paris. It is an eye catching masterpiece in stone. We looked out, from our perch on Parliament hill, and could see the twin silver spires of the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the beginnings of ÒEmbassy RowÓ along Sussex Street. Over 120 nations have embassies here, some impressive. The New U.S. Embassy had cost over $200 million. It looked like a granite faced fortress, a sign of the times.

     We photographed a uniformed RCMP Mountie on her horse. It was a big draw
E for the tourists. Then we wandered a bit enjoying the spectacle of a NationÕs Capitol in Summer, tourist throngs enjoying their heritage. It is impressive by any oneÕs standards.

     From Parliament Hill, we walked along busy Rideau Street, passing another eye catcher in stone. The Chateau Fairmont Laurier is a turreted fairy style castle in the grand manner of the Canadian Rail Road mega hotels. They were built in the 1800Õs, from Quebec City to Victoria on Vancouver Island. You could easily visualize knights and princesses running along the battlements. The proud builder of the hotel had never seen it completed. He had gone down on the Titanic in 1912.

      Along side the hotel, we could look down into the Rideau Canal. It is 10 feet deep, about 50 yards across. It runs 200 km, from Ottawa to Kingston on Lake Ontario. 
A series of 47 locks are needed to complete the journey. The British had originally constructed the canal as a system for military transport from 1826-1832. It had been dug by hand using Irish Laborers, making $.50 per month. Near the conclusion of the project, it had run out of funds. To keep the laborers digging, they were promised land along the canal. Even today many of the settlements, along the 120 miles canal, are peopled by descendants of the original diggers in distinctive irish conclaves.In Winter, the canal is drained to a depth of two feet. It then freezes soild. Thousands of ice skaters enjoy the largest ice rink in the world.

     We had booked a 2-hour, gray line city tour. It was to pick us up at at Elgin and Sparks Sts. ($20 each)  The guide was both informative and amusing. We drove by the enormous Beau Arts Center, the huge War Museum and the much used Museum of Civilization. All are impressive in size and design. A Veter
LanÕs monument stands near the Beau Arts museum to pay tribute to CanadaÕs fallen.

     A quaint Òlittle ItalyÓ lies along Preston Street. Nearby, on Somerset, is a colorful ÒChina Town.Ó Both have lots of restaurants. Next, we viewed a seemingly anomaly in the very center of Ottawa, a nations Capital. Here sits an 800 acre experimental Farm, used for agricultural research. Rows of corn and other food crops sit next to small orchards. Farm animals completed the rural juxtaposition. It is also a well used park for city residents.

      The guide commented on the rising price of gasoline. Canada is self sufficient in its oil needs, getting most of its supply from the oil fields in Alberta. yet the price of gas here was now $1.07 a litre, well over $4 a gallon U.S. They are a net exporter  of oil to the U.S. So why the high prices her
[e? Go figure.

       We stopped briefly at a small park, called Hogback Falls, for R & R. Then we proceeded to the very pricey suburb of Rockcliffe. We passed by the ÒRideau House, Ò on Sussex St. It is the residence of the British Governor General of Canada. He has little actual official power, but is the ceremonial representative of Queen Elizabeth in Canada. Two of the Òtoy soldiers,Ó with their red jackets and black bear helmets, stood guard at the gates of the home. Only the dull, matte finish of the lethal looking M-16 rifle, that they carried, alerted you to the actual reason for their presence. Nearby are the home of the Canadian Premier, Stephen Harper, at 24 Sussex, and several other magnificent mansions, housing various embassies and officials. The homes in the area start at 1 million and range quickly upwards to $30 million. This is w
here you live when you have made it in Ottawa.

     If you here the name ÒRideauÓ mentioned several times, it is because it is on many named places in Ottawa. The term meansÓ curtainÓ in French. In 1613, the French explorer Samuel De Champlain had surveyed  the area  by canoe. Noting the the waterfall on the Ottawa River, he remarked that it  looked like the curtains (Rideau) in his apartment in Paris. The name had stuck fast through the centuries.

    Lastly, we drove through Gatineau, a French suburb. It had been named Hull until two years ago. It had originally been founded by ex patriate Americans, fleeing the American Revolution in the 1770Õs. Then we exited the tour. Ottawa is a beautiful city in Summer. The Rideau Canal, the Ottawa River and the government complexes and embassies all create a tapestry of forested urban beauty. It is eye catching and impressive, as befitting the capital of a Countr
dy as large and affluent as Canada.

    We walked across the Sparks Mall and on to our room at the Lord Elgin. We were tiring from the day. I wrote up my notes as we sipped a glass of cabernet and then drifted into a conversation with Ozzie Nelson. (nap.)

      Later that day, we dressed for dinner and walked along Elgin to ÒDarcy McGeeÕs Irish Pub. Ò (Darcy had beena founder of the Candian Republic but was assiassinated near Parliament Hill in 1867.) It sits at the end of the Sparks St. mall, just across from Parliament Hill. It was hot and humid out. The place was wall to wall with diners. The outside cafe was laden with beer drinkers. We settled in to an Irish style bar, with wooden tables and pleasant waitresses. We had some SmithwickÕs ale, then  Atlantic Salmon and salads. The food was pretty decent.($54)  
     After Dinner, we walked across 
to Parliament Hill.  It was dusk. They were getting ready for the nightly Òlight and sound showÓ that is  projected onto the face of Parliament building.  At 9:30 P.M. the show started. The crowds were considerable. Thousands of tourists coming to watch their nationÕs heritage on display. It was a 30 minute version of ÒLa Belle Canada,Ó  featuring, in light and sound, the considerable bounty of the  Canadian Republic. We enjoyed the production.

    It was 10:00 P.M. and we were tiring, but set off for one last experience. We stopped by the luxurious bar, of the Chateau Fairmont Laurier, for a glass of cabernet. The lobby is elegant, befitting a grand hotel like this. We enjoyed the brief stop. ($25) It was 11:00 P.M. as we walked along Elgin to our hotel. It was hot a
nd sticky out. We were tired as old logs in a swamp. We settled into our room, read for a time and then drifted into the welcome abyss of sleep.

Thursday,July 27,2006- Ottawa, Canada

     We were up at 7 A.M. It was rainy, muggy and already in the 70Õs out. We had coffee and read the papers in our room, as we watched the T.V. news. At 9:15 A.M., we set out for Parliament Hill, stopping at Starbucks for coffee and croissants. We wanted to catch the 10:00 A.M. ÒChanging of the GuardÓ ceremonies. A large crowd had already gathered, around the roped off quadrangle, when we arrived. Martial music was blaring from a sound system, waiting for the arriving soldiers. We heard them before we saw them. Two troops of twenty soldiers, bedecked in scarlet red jackets, tartan 
kilts and tall bear skin helmets, marched up along Elgin and Rideau Streets to the center of Parliament Hill. I noted the black watch tartan on the kilts. They might look like toy soldiers, but they werenÕt. Americans had looked down the sights of their rifles at these men in two wars and fought alongside of them in a dozen others. They were hardy warriors fully prepared to rock and roll if they needed to. The snub M-16s signified their lethal intent. They were to stand in pairs, in one hour shifts as guards, at the gate of the Governor GeneralÕs house on Sussex street.

       The Commander of the Watch barked out shrill orders to the troops. They marched, wheeled and stood at arms in synchronized movement to the delight of the crowd. The incoming troop then stood at attention for the inspection of their arms and attire, by the Sergeant of the Guard, while the outgoing troop stood at
 attention. Finally, the pipers wailed out the stirring melody of ÒOh Canada,Ó the Canadian National Anthem. The crowd and the soldiers sang along in unison. From scores of hockey games in Buffalo, the music was as familiar to us as our own. Then, the departing troops lifted their colors and marched off down Rideau and Elgin to their barracks, pipers piping and drums drumming.

     After the ceremony, we walked down busy Rideau St. to the ÒBy Ward Marche.Ó It is a large collection of stalls selling fruits, vegetables and other items, surrounded by restaurants, small notion shops and other attractions. It reminds me of the Quincy Market area near BostonÕs Fannuel Hall. ÒThe Fish Market Restaurant,Ó OreganoÕs,Ó ÒDublinÕs Aulde PubÓ and many other emporiums were already doing a brisk trade from the many tourists and natives come to shop.

     From the Market, we walked along Sussex Street, past the U.S. Embassy. The high fencing, manned gate and gray granite walls gave the appearance of a heavily fortifi
ed outpost, like our other embassies in many parts of  the world. It is a sign of the times. Next , we found and entered the twin spired Cathedral of Notre Dame. It is old,from the mid 1800Õs, with carved oaken shrines and dark wooden pews. A Mass in French was being celebrated. We sat for a time enjoying the silent ritual of yet another age old ceremony. Just across from the Cathedral sits the large VeteranÕs Monument, a tribute to CanadaÕs fallen. I noted that Canadians had been involved in many wars that Americans had not. Actions in India, South Africa, and other venues of the British Raj, had been supported by Colonials from all members of her Common Wealth.

    Next to the VeteranÕs Monument is an architectural vision in steel, glass and gray granite. It the Fine Arts Museum. Three stories of granite, with floor to ceiling glass windows, catches the eye. The rear of the building is 
a modified geodesic dome, in glass that sparkled in the the noon day sun. For $6, we entered this stone and glass pyramid, marveling at the size and grandeur of the facility. ÒThe European and American hallÓ  first drew us. Boucher, Van Gogh, Renoir and Pizzaro all had interesting pieces. Two of DaliÕs  were fascinating.

      A a brief stop in the Beaux Arts Cafe for coffee, was pleasant. The glass walls, over looking the scenic Ottawa River Valley, are restful and eye candy. After coffee, we found the ÒCanadian Hall.Ó It is an interesting collection of rural and Winter tableaus celebrating Beau Canada. Jackson, Thompson, Morrice and others depicted the full wealth of Canadiana. Two others painted in a fashion similar to Marc Chagal and Edward Hopper. It was well worth the visit.

     Lastly, we visited the ÒInuit HallÓ in the basement floor. In whalebone, basalt and green native stone, are depicted 
scenes from fishing, whaling and village life. It is an interesting portrait of native Canadian life on the far shores of the Arctic Ocean. The natives had recently succeeded in creating a new Province in Canada, Nunavit. It is carved from the Northwest Territories and is peopled by native Inuits along the Arctic shores of Canada. The Òtwo hour Museum glazeÓ had overtaken us. It was time to leave.

     We walked back along Sussex St.. to the Marche, looking for a place for lunch. Everything was awash with hungry tourists. We found and entered the ÒBlue Cactus Grille.Ó It is open and airy like Sloppy JoeÕs Grille in Key West. We settled in for Louisiana Shrimp salads and ice tea. ($35)

     After lunch, we walked along Sussex St., to the Rideau Center across from the Chateau Lau
rier. It is three stories of pricey shopping, cafes and small bistros. We delighted in the air conditioned luxury of this elegant oasis. We people watched, browsed the shops and enjoyed the beauty on display before us. A second story pedestrian bridge took us into the lobby of The Westin Hotel. It is spacious, airy and luxurious, befitting the arm and the leg that they charge you to stay here. From the Westin, we walked along the Rideau Canal. Outdoor restaurants were serving lunchers. Pleasure boats were moored all along the canal. The boat  names, with home ports on their sterns, were from everywhere.

      We crossed the canal and walked through a small park across from our hotel. Then, we proceed  along Elgin St. to a Òreal peopleÕsÓ neighbor hood. OttawaÕs City hall, a 
delightful Norman Style Church, from the mid 1800Õs, are the gateway into several blocks of small shops, restaurants and other facilities that serviced the thousands who lives nearby in a many storied collection of condos and apartments. We browsed and looked for a restaurant for this evening. ÒJohnny FarinaÕsÓ looked promising. It was hot and we were tiring. We walked back to the hotel, had coffee in the outdoor star bucks and then retreated to out air conditioned room for a glass of Cabernet and a conversation with Ozzie Nelson.

     Later, at 7:30 P.M. we set out along Elgin St., to Johnny FarinaÕs. It is a two story , comfortable place with brick walls, wrought iron railings and lots of charm. It was pretty crowded, but we were soon seated on the second floor. We note
d an enjoyed the presence of Òyoung peopleÓ here and in Ottawa in general.Ó Full employment drew people in their 20Õs and 30Õs to Ottawa by the thousands. A half litre of a delightful Sicilian red(Dio Naboli) entertained us before dinner. I had chosen the Linguini Pescatore, Mary, the Penne and red sauce. Clams, mussels, shrimp and scallops, over Linguini in a blush sauce, was exquisite. At $60, the pace was a find.

      After dinner, we strolled along Elgin Street up towards the Sparks St. Pedestrian Mall. It was hot and humid out. At Darcy Mc GeeÕs Irish Pub, we stood for a time and listened to the Sons of Scotland play some stirring music on their bag pipes. They were dressed in full Scottish regalia and were fun to watch and listen to. We bought some SOS raffle
 tickets and enjoyed the evening. Throngs of tourists were already headed up to Parliament Hill to watch the nightly sound and light show projected onto parliament Building.

    It was getting late and we were tiring. We walked back along Elgin to our hotel, where we settled in with  our books and waited for Morpheus to claim us. It had been a lovely, albeit brief, stay in a beautiful City. CanadianÕs should be proud of their Captial. It shows off well.

Friday, July 28- Ottawa, Canada

    We were up by 7:30 A.M., prepped for the day and packed our bags. Mary found coffee and croissants in the star bucks in the lobby.  We watched the T.V. news and waited for the rush hour traffic to abate. By 9:15 A.M., we checked out, retrieved and loaded our car. We set off along Laurier St. to OÕConnor St., and then found the entrance to Rte. 417 East. We followed it for 60 miles and then picked up. rte. #40 East which wou
ld carry us into Metro Montreal. Rte. #15 South had heavy traffic, as we drove into Metro Montreal. Rte. #720E took us to Rue Ste. Jacque, one of the exits into the Old Port Area of Montreal. A few wrong turns, on the crowded one way streets, and we finally arrived at the small boutique Hotel ÒPlace De Armes.Ó It has a top floor, open air restaurant, a bar.cafe on the first floor and an elegant restaurant in the basement. A helpful valet parked our car and brought our bags into the spacious lobby of the  hotel. I marshaled my best French and checked us into this beautiful hotel. The clerk was more than generous in tolerating my French. We were assigned Room 3407 on the fourth Floor. It is spacious and newly remodeled. At $207 (US) per night, it was a bargain. We unpacked, glad we were done with the awful traffic. We prepared to venture forth to see this European style city.

     We called the Gray Line Tours, to sign up for a two hour
 ÒCity Tour.Ó While we waited, we sat down to lunch at ÒSuite #701.Ó It is the bar/cafe in the lobby. We had elegant tuna and chicken sandwiches on toasted bread. The French do know how to cook. ($51)

       The bus company sent a shuttle to pick us up at the PLace De Armes. We drove  over to Dorchester Square, on Ren_ Levesque Blvd. We shared the ride with a couple from Minnesota. We got our tickets at the kiosk and boarded a delightful, open-air, double-decker bus for the ride.($35 each) it was 80 degrees, cloudy and comfortable out.

       Montreal (pronounced ÒMon RoyalÓ ) had been founded in 1642. A party of 39 French Missionaries,  Sulpician Fathers from Paris, under the direction of Monsignor Maisoneauve comprised the entourage. The French King had awarded them the Isle Montreal, 494 sq. kilometers in the middle of the Ste. Lawrence River of North America. They first settled at a site in the old Port, where now sits an a
rcheological museum. They named the city ÒVille Marie,Ó in honor of the Blessed Virgin. It was a functioning theocracy for much of its early beginnings. From 1715 through 1815 the small settlement had been surrounded by a stone wall, like cities in medieval Europe.

     The Cathedral of Notre Dame and a seminary, both on the PLace De Armes, had been their earliest constructions. For the next 115 years, the city had been wholly French in language, culture and populace. It thrived as a fur trading center between Europe and all of the interior of North America. In 1759, at the climactic battle of Montreal (fought in Quebec City) France lost all of Canada to the English. Historians say that at first neither knew what the land comprised, or indeed wanted to own it, but fate gave it to the English. It has been bi-lingual, bi cultural and troubled ever since.

     The City spread out from the I
sle Montreal to the surrounding banks of the Ste. Lawrence River. In the 1950Õs, the St. Lawrence Seaway Project. Connected all of the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean, via Montreal. The city exploded financially and commercially. It now holds 3.4 million souls, all of whom speak French and most of whom speak English. The 1967 WorldÕs Fair had been held here. Buckminster FullerÕs Geodesic dome sits attractively on the skyline. It had been the American Pavilion. The Olympics had also been held here in 1976. A huge Olympic stadium, and adjacent observation tower, still grace the skyline. A large and ornate complex, that now is a functioning gambling Casino, had been the French Pavilion at the WorldÕs Fair.

     We traversed the broad highways, admiring the open sight lines along the St. Lawrence River and Lachine Canal. The Casino, Dome and stadium stand against the skyline as markers of the cityÕs prominence. Montreal had grown as a St. Lawrence River Port. Large ships could enter Atl
antic Canada and sail down the St. Lawrence to Montreal. The Old Port area is several miles long. Now, it is park land and MontrealÕs recreation Center. A huge Science Museum and several marinas displace the old port shipping area. The port facilities had been moved up the river in the 1950Õs. The bus drove us through the narrow streets of the Old Port Area. From our hotel, on the Rue Ste. Jacque, the Òquarter Ò extended down three parallel streets, Rue Notre Dame, Rue St., Louis and the Rue Commune. It stretches seven blocks across, from the PLace de Armes to the open square of the PLace Jacque Cartier. In this quarter are restaurants and brasseries by the armload. Small tourist shops, with everything Canadian, vie for business with coffee shops beckoning t
Hhe  thousands of strolling tourists. This is where everyone comes when they visit Montreal. Tourism is a major source of the cityÕs prosperity.  3300 km of bike trails wend through Montreal and the surrounding area. They  follow the St. Lawrence River all the way up and into the Gaspe Peninsula. That is some bike ride!!

       The business district has broad boulevards and many, many new glass-faced and towering office buildings. They gleam in the noon day sun. The temp was warm and in the 80Õs out now, but in the Winter, this place is frigid, with temps falling well below zero. To combat the harsh temperatures, the city had developed over 33 km of Òunderground.Ó Two underground boulevards, paralleling busy Rue Ste. Catherine, have emerged as shopping centers, featuring bistros, cafes and all other forms of urban commerce. Over
x 85% of the above ground buildings and condo complexes are linked to the underground city. It is impressive in its length. We would explore it later.

       Above Ground, Rue Ste. Catherine is the busy shopping Center. EatonÕs, Simons, and other major retailers draw in the shoppers in throngs. The next major boulevard up is the Rue Sherbrooke. McGill University, founded in 1821,  is the major presence here, with over 20,000 students. Much of the old Brownstone mansions, from those who had made it in Montreal, had been converted for college use. The two buildings of the Musee Beaux Arts looked impressive. We would visit them later.

       The huge complex of the Montreal  hospital completes the crowded space on Rue Sherbrooke, just below the ÒMount,Ó for which Montreal is named. The Mount is a small peak in the center of the Isle Montreal. Surrounding it are extensive Parkla
nds, Parc Montreal, designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead. It  features  a small, man-made,  lake Beaver, bike trails and picnic areas. In Winter, there are 22 km of groomed ski trails running through the Park. The enormous presence, of the Church and Monastery called ÒOratorie St. Joseph Ò sits on a hillside commanding attention from the immediate area. The enormous copper dome, now weathered bright green, is distinctive. It looks like the U.S. Capitol. An eccentric monk, Brother Anthony, had taken as his life's work, the task of raising money and building this huge complex in honor of St. Joseph. Throngs of pilgrims visit here annually.

     It was getting on 4:00 P.M. and the Òtour glazeÓ was overtaking us, as the bus pulled into Dorchester Square. Two hours of touring is enough for me. We climbed down from our lofty perch and sought out our chatty van driver for a ride back to the Hotel Place De Armes. We settled into our room, wrote
 up our notes and chilled out.  At 5:00 P.M. we enjoyed wine and cheese in the first floor cafe Ó Suite #701.Ó It is included in the package deal. We sipped a glass of the house red and enjoyed the repartee from groups around us. We spoke  and ordered in French. The staff seemed to appreciate the gesture.

      We had purchased tickets for the 6:30 P.M. ÒIlluminereÓ showing, inside the Cathedral Notre Dame, for $10 each. The Twin spired architectural beauty is a smaller replica of its namesake in Paris. It was stifling out and inside wasnÕt much cooler. We sat in assigned seats. Head phones carried the narrative in French and English. Huge white sheets hung from the second floor gallery and main altar. A film, depicting the early founding of Montreal and its religious history was projected upon the sheets. It was both interesting and educational. After the 30 minute film, the sheets dropped and we got to spend 15 minutes wandering around this beautiful edifice.
 A Blue ceiling with stars represents the heavens. Several small shrines and altars, along the sides and rear, were ornate and of carved oak. The huge organ sits in the choir loft. The Main altar is a series of gilded carvings, on three levels, depicting various religious themes. The church had began construction in 1826. Noted New York architect Joseph OÕDonnell had drawn up the plans. Marguerite DÕYouville had  founded the Order of Gray Nuns here in the early 1800Õs. We enjoyed the ornate splendor of the darkened interior. Celine Dionne had been married here with much pomp and splendor.

       From the Cathedral, we walked along busy Rue St. Paul. The bistros were awash with diners. The ÒLe JonkÓ shops were doing a thriving business as well. We walked down to the Place Jacque Cartier. It is like the Piazza San Marco in Venice,always crowded and always alive. Throngs of tourist walked up and down the periphery, while addi
tional throngs sat on the outside porches of several restaurants. Street performers had circles of tourists surrounding them. Music was playing and the aura was festive, a hot Friday night in MontrealÕs Old Port. We stopped by a Ben and Jerry's for dishes of ice cream and bottles of water ($15). We people watched the busy throng. Many were headed down into the even busier area of the river front. It was 78 degrees, warm and humid out.

     We walked along the busy River front street of Rue Commune, watching the horse drawn buggies and bicycles compete with congested people and auto traffic. It was getting late and we were tired. We walked up Rue Supplice to the PLace De Armes. Crowds of tourist always gather here in front of the Cathedral. We sat there for a bit and then retired to our room, where I wrote up my notes, and enjoyed a glass of cabernet. We read our books for a time and then slid into a welcome s
leep. It had been a long and interesting day in Montreal.

Saturday, July 29, 2006-Montreal, Canada

      We were up by 7 A.M. At 8:00 A.M., a bellman delivered a Grand Petit Dejune. Fruit, eggs, croissants, cheese and yogurt with good coffee. These  folks know how to treat a guest. We watched the T.V. News and prepped for the day. It was hard to find a T.V. station that broadcasts in English. Our French wasnÕt good enough to understand much of  the rapid fire patter on the French stations.

     We checked our e-mail in the lobby and then walked across Rue Notre Dame. It was early and quiet, before the hordes descended. At the end of the quarter sits another grand old church. This one is the Eglise Notre Dame de Bon Secours. It had been built in 175
N1, burned and rebuilt in 1771. The dark wooden pews, and gilded altar and shrines were calming, as churches always are. 

     Just below the church, sits the newly renovated Marche Bonsecours. It is a single-story collection of pricey artistÕs shops, featuring hand-made pottery, jewelry, paintings and other items for the discerning shopper. We walked through the market and on into the waterfront section of the old port area. On this end of the waterfront, sits a distinctive tower clock, It rests on a point overlooking the Cartier Bridge and the St. Lawrence River. It looks like city officials allow ÒLe BumsÓ to sleep and congregate on this far stretch of the waterfront. Several were in evidence, lolling under the trees or sleeping in benches. I wonder what they do when this place freezes solid in Winter?

     We walked along the St.
 Lawrence River, enjoying the beau visage of this wide and swiftly moving river. It was sunny and nice out. It is a good way to spend a day. We walked down to the Blvd. Ste. Laurent and then walked up and into the small but distinctive area known as ÒChina Town.Ó The requisite  signs, in neon red and yellow announcing the lord knows what in Chinese characters,  caught our attention. Tourists were already strolling the small pedestrian walkway, browsing the ducks and other things you usually find in the windows of Chinese restaurants.

     Then, the character of the Blvd. changed as it neared busy Rue Ste. Catherine. It became sleeze allee. Porno shops, strip joints and sleezy bars announced that this is the place to come and slum in Montreal. We walked quickly through the area and on across Rue St. Catherine. The first few blocks of Rue Ste. Catherine are the same as sleeze allee. Then, yo
2u come into the main shopping area. Coffee shops, bistros and prosperous retail shops draw you into the commercial vortex. This is where Montrealers come to shop on Saturday. We stopped at a Burger King, for bottles of Eau Dasani, and let our body temperatures cool down. It was a scorcher outside. We watched the stream of shoppers walk up and down the Blvd. Eatons, Simons and a score of other big name Canadian retailers were drawing them in by the hundreds.

      We ventured into Simons and took the escalator down into the Òunderground city.Ó It is a connected stretch, of all of the stores above ground, with many more food courts , coffee shops and shopping centers. It really is an Òunderground cityÓ that frozen Montrealers can use during the harsh Winter. We walked for a few blocks, stopped for coffee at 
La starbucks and then climbed up to the surface, like some latter day Eloi, from the movie Time Machine. 

     We strolled back across Rue St. Catherine to University Blvd. There, we sat for a time in Victoria Sq. and watched the swirls of people from  everywhere wander by. Continuing down towards the river, we crossed through the banking area and over Rue Ste. Jacque to our hotel. I applied ice to a damaged knee and chilled out for a bit. It had been a casual 6 mile stroll this morning.

     I asked the hotel concierge to book us  reservations at the ÒAuberge Vieux PortÓ on Rue Commune, for dinner. Then, we walked back over Rue Ste. Paul and enjoyed some cafe au lait and croissants at the ÒPatisserie Claud Pastel.Ó Mary had spotted one of those all year round Christmas shops in the area and wanted to buy some ornaments, stenciled 
tin French.  We entered the small shop ÒNoel EternalÓ and browsed their wares. It was sro with other shoppers browsing. Across the street, we stopped in a small wine shop and bought a .75 litre of Mondavi Cabernet. Then, we sat in the PLace de Armes, beneath  the statue of the cityÕs founder (Maisoneauve) and watched a wedding party filing into the busy church. Horse drawn carriages, busloads of aging tourists and other pilgrims make the Place De Armes a fascinating area to sit and watch the day unfold.

     We walked the other way on the Rue Notre Dame, scouting restaurants. Many of the older buildings in the quarter are being restored. It will be quite a place in a few years. On Rue Francis Xavier, we found something promising called ÒCafe De Mateo.Ó It was hot and we were tiring. We walked up the Rue Sulpice to Rue Ste Jacque and our hotel, where we chilled out for a b
it. After 5 P.M., we stopped by the First floor Suite #701 for wine and cheese. It is a nice custom. In other cities we had met many fine people this way. We chatted with a waitress in French. She told us that all Quebecois take French through the first six years of their education. After that,  Parents decides what Language the children will study in. Most are bi-lingual, but French is the language of choice.

      After  a rest in the room, we set out at 7:00 P.M. for our dinner at ÒAuberge Vieux Port.Ó The place was sro. We sat in dimly lit elegance in the 5 star basement restaurant.Obviously our hotel concierge had mistaken us for people of means instead of the casual types that we are. The waitress was a Jamaican who spoke no English. It was her first day on the job. A  perusal of the menu, in French, told us that this was going to be a $300 dinner, with few choices for Vegetarians. In that discretio
n is the better part of valor, we opted to make a rapid and graceful exit. It was hot outside and every place nearby was mobbed. There was to be a huge fireworks exhibition over the river tonight. It seemed that half of Montreal was in the old port area having dinner and getting ready for the fire works. We wandered back to Rue Francis Xavier and stopped in the small Cafe De Mateo, that we had noticed earlier in the day. It too was wall to wall people. We were seated soon  enough. The food wasnÕt worth eating. Some times you eat the bear, other times he eats you. We wrote it off as experience. $70 for a beer and chips was a lesson. DonÕt go there either.

     The River front quay was jammed with tens of thousands of people. Vehicular traffic into the quarter was backed up for miles. We walked along Rue Commune  enjoying the heavily peopled maelstrom. It was hard for us to believe that this many people can scrunch into such a sma
(ll area.  As darkness descended, we stood amongst the many tens of thousands and watched the fireworks extravaganza. The multi colored explosions were almost a mile distant, near the Pont Cartier. But, we could see most of them clearly enough. The crowd oohed and ahhed as the bright green, yellow and red star bursts colored and illuminated  the inky night sky. It was fun to watch, as fireworks always are.

    After the fireworks, like a huge receding tidal flow, the many thousands of visitors began to recede and exit the old port area. We knew enough to abandon the Quarter in the face of so many visitors. We walked back to the Place De Armes, watched the throngs still streaming into the Old Port area, and retreated to our room, to enjoy a glass of cabernet.We read for a time, before the sand man 
took us. It had been a long an interesting day.

Sunday July 30th, 2006- Montreal, Canada

      We arose at 7 A.M. and watched the T.V. News. It was  73 degrees F out and sunny. Today would be Òune beau jour.Ó We prepped for the day, enjoying the luxurious amenities of this grand suite. We were paying $207 per night, plus auto storage. The room would go for $500 per night in a any major city.

      At 9 A.M. the bellman brought us another grand petit dejeune. We enjoyed it leisurely. At 10:30 A.M., we checked our e-mail in the lobby and then flagged down a cab outside. We were headed for the Musee Beau Arts on Sherbrooke. The cabbie traded French/ English with us. He seemed to at least appreciate our attempt at speaking French poorly. We 
Gboth had to figure out the French translation for the English idiom Òto each his own.Ó It was sunny and pleasant out. 

       The Fine Arts Museum was just opening its doors as we arrived at 11:00 A.M. Admission is free on Sundays, so we made a donation and walked in. The Museum is composed of two, four-story complexes on either side of Rue Sherbrooke. Like most Fine Arts Museums, the building is often a work of art in itself. 

     The first floor contained 18th century French furnishings and a panoply of silver ware and Canadian tea services from the 1800Õs. On the second floor, we found a wonderful collection of Canadian Paintings. Hebert, Suzor-Cote, Paul Peel, Helen McNichols and others were represented in a delightful gallery of oils that pleases the eye. Some were impressionistic in that soft gauzy way. Others were cha
zracter studies in oil.  A famed Canadian Sculptor, Louis LiberteÕ had an entire room full of his sculptings depicting Frontier scenes in Canada. Two others works were gothic Rodin-like mysteries. Each work was molded in plaster.

     We descended, by elevator, to the basement and walked across the street using the underground tunnel. On etage quatre, we found an entire collection of Dutch and Italian painters from the 1600Õs and 1700Õs. Most have a religious theme. It is not my favorite genre.  On etage une, is a small but pleasant French Impressionist collection. Two attractive Pizzaros, a beau Renoir, une Tissot and even due DaliÕs made the room worth the visit. The Musee Beau Arts is worth the stop. We browsed the gift shop for note cards and then exited onto Rue Sherbrooke. It was sunny and lovely out, cool for the first time in days.

   The Rue Crescent lies just down Sh
derbrooke from the Musee. We strolled down several blocks of this upscale Blvd. of second floor eateries and pricey designer clothing shops. This is where the in crowd shops and eats in Montreal. Most of the bistros were crowded with Sunday Morning brunchers. The Rue Crescent ends at busy Rue St. Catherine. We walked along this shopping mecca and stopped at a starbucks for coffee and a rest.

      We followed the Blvd. University to the broad Avenue Rene LeVesque. There, we stopped in to the Grand Eglise  Reine De Monde. This massive Cathedral holds a smaller version of the enormous, four-collumned Throne of St. Peter in the Vatican. It is huge and impressive by any CathedralÕs standards.

    We kept walking down University Blvd. to the Rue Ste. Jacque. We sat for a time in the PLace de Armes, watching the interesting throngs wander to and fro. It was onl
Py 2:30 P.M. but we were tiring from our walk. We retreated to our hotel to sit for an hour, write up our notes and chill out.
It was our last full day in Montreal and we were not going to sit it out in our room. At 3:00 P.M., we set off, over busy Rue Notre Dame, for Place Jacque Cartier. It was awash with visitors. We chose the outside patio of ÒLe Grande TerraceÓ and settled in for Caesar salads with Salmon. They were excellent. ($39) It didnÕt seem strange for me to order and converse with the waiter in French. It doesnÕt take too long before you settle into the rhythm of a ÒforeignÓ place.

     We watched and enjoyed the street performers and the thousands of strollers as we finished lunch. PLace Jacque Cartier is a spectacle that unfolds itself daily. Activities pique late in the hours of the early morning. After lunch, we walked 
along the waterfront enjoying the musicians, performers and thousands of strollers mingling here on a beau sunny day. It is a daily carnival that takes place in the Summer Months in Montreal.

     It was late afternoon as we walked back to the hotel, stopping by for wine and cheese in Suite #701. It was a pleasant daily ritual. We were tiring with the day and the journey. We retreated to our room, where we had cheese, croissants and finished off the Mondavi Cabernet as we read our books and awaited sleep. It had been a very nice trip, but it was time to go home.

Monday July 31st, 2006- Montreal, Canada

     We were up by 7 A.M., prepped for the day and packed our bags. Le Grand Petit Dejeune was delivered at 8 A.M. It was as good as the previous two days.  We checked out in the Lob
by at 9:15 A.M. and summoned Le Voiture from the Valet. Exiting Montreal proved to be easy. The Rue Ste. Jacque led into University Blvd. and the entrance for the Est. #10- Sud #15 expressways. Traffic was relatively light. We soon reached the nearby U.S. Border at PLattsburgh. Customs were a royal pain in the butt. We sat for 90 minutes as they went through the whole extensive Òcustoms procedures.Ó We had grown up on the Canadian border and always resented the Òthorough look overÓ by overly officious knuckleheads.

      All things pass. We drove down Rte, #87, stopping for gas and coffee in busy Lake George. We picked up the N.Y. State Thruway, and considerable traffic, at Albany and headed Westward. It was hot and in the 90Õs out. We were tired from the drive and the 
day as we sailed on into Amherst. A monsoon rainstorm, the night before,  had given us water in the basement, and that awful armpit smell of mold, as a return present. We cranked up the air conditioning and drove to a nearby Tim HortonÕs for soup and sandwiches, while the condo cooled off.

     We were tired and ready for Morpheus after the long drive. It had taken us 9 & 1/2  hours to reach home. It had been a long day, but we were home and safe, with no mishaps. Ottawa and Montreal had been well worth the time to visit.


                                                (8396 words)


                                           Joseph Xavier Martin

                                           Amherst, N.Y.