Quebec; May 2013

Friday, May 11, 2013
Courtney and I took off at 5:30 am for a six day journey to celebrate the start of our 25th year of marriage. We had a 9 hour drive to Montreal. It was a pretty painless drive with a bit of rain but nothing too bad. Once we got to Montreal we had a bit of trouble figuring out how to get off the highway to where we wanted to go, overshooting it… TWICE. We ended up finding it a different way all together. We are staying three nights at the Hotel Nelligan in old Montreal. They upgraded us to a suite which was a big room with a fireplace, brick walls and a really nice bathroom with a whirlpool tub.  Very nice. After settling in we went for a walk for about an hour, checking out the surrounding area, Notre Dame , just a block a way and then walked toward downtown toward the arts district. We headed back via china town – sketchy, and came back to relax before dinner. After taking a little snooze and a nice bath we headed off towards dinner in the Latin Quarter. It ended up being farther than I thought – about a half hour walk, but we had a great dinner at L’Express and it was fun to walk through the many different neighborhoods. The restaurant was a french bistro we made a reservation for after reading about it and dinner was great.  I had sorrel soup and then salmon over a bed of spinach.  Courtney had a salad with warm goat cheese and then mushroom ravioli.  Mmmmm. After dinner we had a nice stroll back and went to bed pretty quickly as it was a long day.

Happy to be exploring a new city

Interesting buildings everywhere

Le Vieux Montreal

Looking into L’Express from the street

jar of pickles and mustard for appetizers… good stuff

Saturday, May 11, 2013
After sleeping ok – our street is pretty busy and across from a noisy late night club so it was kind of loud, we had a nice continental breakfast chez hotel. Good coffee, nice dining room and nice selection of food. We took off around 10:00 deciding to head out towards the botanical gardens and Olympic village. We took the subway up and first went to Le Chateau Dufrense which was an old mansion built in 1912 and now preserved as a museum. We had the house to ourselves and enjoyed looking at the beautiful woodwork, windows and craftsmanship. It was odd in that two brothers built it together and it one house with two residents that didn’t connect at all internally. After spending about an hour exploring the house we went to the Montreal botanical gardens which were right across the street. The gardens were very nice with lots of different gardens to explore. A huge place. It was drizzling a bit but that didn’t deter us from walking around for over an hour. You could easily spend more as we barely walked through half of it. We then walked through the old Olympic village which was right there also. The Olympic stadium is HUGE with billions of tons of concrete. It was very 70s modernistic and will be interesting to see how it holds up over the next ten years. It looks like they have rehabbed several of the smaller venues into museums and other structures and there was a brand new planetarium that just opened as well. We hopped back on the metro and got off in the Latin quarter and stopped at Les Trois Brasseurs – a bier pub for a late lunch. After lunch we walked back towards downtown checking out the 21 swings exhibit. They were groups of swings that made music when you swing on them. I read about them last year somewhere so it was cool to see them. We then walked back towards le Vieux looping down towards the other side. It is a great city to explore with amazing buildings everywhere. We passed the restaurant where we had dinner reservations and pushed it back as we had lunch so late. After another nice siesta we relaxed and had a bottle of wine in our room and then went to dinner at Venti Osteria at 8:00.  Venti was a contemporary Italian place, nice and small with lots of locals.  We split an order of crostini with eggpland and tomatoes.  Courtney had a risotto with shiitake mushrooms, cauliflower purée and shaved mushrooms and roasted Brussels sprouts leaves.  I had Porchetta stuffed with cheese, apricots over Gorgonzola polenta.  Mon Dieu!! After a nice long relaxing dinner we strolled around le Vieux and then stopped in the bar at our hotel for a late night beer.

inside le Chateau Dufrense

checking out the ceiling

amazing woodwork, ceilings, tile everywhere

going into the Montreal Botanical Gardens

amazing gardens everywhere

le champion

70’s futuristic architecture

vacation = beer for lunch; bonus points = lunch outside

21 swings

A cool video of this:

contemplating a tatoo

relaxing in our great room

late night bier.

Sunday, May 12, 2013
We slept in a bit this morning, relaxing and reading in bed enjoying having nothing to do. We had breakfast chez l’hotel, I can eat chocolate croissants every morning thank you, and then took off in a rather cloudy, drizzly day. We hopped on the Metro and went up north getting off around McGill University. We were heading towards le Parc du Mont-Royal which is this huge mountain in the middle of the city. We walked around 5 blocks going way up hill and then found the steps leading up to the park. Hundreds of steps. Hundreds and hundreds. Crazy. There were several groups let by trainers running up and down the steps looking like they were all going to die. It was quite impressive what a steep hill it is. At least we were working off some of the beer we have been drinking. We made it up to a park where they had a nice overlook with great views of the city, some nice gardens and an old 1930s era pavilion. It looked like the hill kept going up but we headed back down into the city. Going all downhill we wandered around the cool neighborhood bordering the university and museum and ended up at the art museum which was our goal but was surprised that we ended up right there. Le Musee National des Beaux-Arts du Quebec was actually three different buildings on two sides of a busy street ingeniously connected through tunnels and galleries under the ground. It was a very impressive layout and a very nice museum. We wandered about for an hour or enjoying the large exhibit of Napoleon artifacts, the modern art and the cool displays of furniture. There was also a nice small outdoor sculpture garden. We then wandered back towards downtown walking through the busy shopping district, popping into the Ritz to check it out and then wandering back to Les Halles where we founds a decent pizza place for lunch. We then walked back towards old Montreal, walking through the alleys, going out on the waterfront to enjoy the sun that finally came out and then going back to our hotel to relax. We walked many miles this day. After a nice snooze we headed down to have a drink in the lobby to celebrate mothers day and ending up hanging out for over an hour as the manhattans were tasty. We eavesdropped while having cocktails and heard someone talking about a restaurant close by that was good Mediterranean food and had live jazz. That sounded right up our alley so I went on Opentable and booked us a table at 8:00 which was about 45 minutes away. The restaurant ended up being really nice. We waited about 15 minutes for our table listening to the duo jazz combo that was nice. We had a table right by the window which was nice as we just lingered watching the strollers and enjoying the good food. I had a tasty mushroom risotto and Courtney had a bowl of french onion soup. We strolled around after our dinner… it was cold out, in the 40s and went to bed pretty early.

on top of Mont Royal

the tulips were beautiful everywhere

a wedding party taking pictures outside the musee des beaux arts

bust of Napoleon in front of a window

creepy sculpture

interesting gallery of decorative arts

alley in old montreal

outside our hotel

Mothers Day Manhattan

Un grande bier

Monday, May 13, 2013
We got up around 7, got our stuff together, had another nice petit dejeuner chez hotel and on the road by 8:00. With no troubles we made the 3 hour journey to Quebec City. A nice drive through the country side, lots of farms, everything in French now. We had little trouble finding our way to our hotel: the beautiful le Chateau Frontenac. Very nice. We were able to check in right away and quickly made our way outside exploring. We walked outside for about an hour checking out the village and were happy to stumble upon Chez Temporel for lunch which was hidden in an alley and a tiny place. We each had some good québécois bier, really good sandwiches and salad it really felt like we were somewhere different with everyone speaking French and the whole atmosphere. After lunch we walked around the walls of the city checking out the views. I think Quebec City is one of the few remaining walled cities. It was pretty cool.  We wandered back to our hotel and went swimming in the pool, sitting in the hot tub and reading poolside.  We relaxed in our room having a bottle of wine and felt all fooded out so we decided to just go to the bar in our hotel instead of going out to dinner.  It was a nice, country clubbish bar overlooking the river.  We enjoyed some cocktails and stayed in for the night as the weather was rainy and cold.

our beautiful hotel: le chateau frontenac

town square

typical street in Quebec City

outside the walls of the old city

exploring the alleys

bier with lunch

relaxing at the lounge

Tuesday, May 14th 2013

Woke up to the beautiful sight of sunshine after a previous evening of rain.  We had breakfast in the hotel which was fabulous.  Best breakfast buffet we’ve ever had with everything and anything you could possibly want.  Waiters, good coffee, pastries, bacon, omelets, anything and everything.  After a nice long meal we took off on our adventures.  We walked along the riverfront on the Promenade des Gouverners which had hundreds of steps going up and down high above the river.  This let to the Citadelle which was an old fort that was the central part of the walled city and is now an active military post.  Although you couldn’t walk around much in the middle, just peep in, it was cool to see the old walls and the nice views.  We then continued walking along the river away from the city through a nice park and eventually ending up at the National Museum of Fine Arts of Quebec.  Another beautiful museum with an old traditional wing and a newer addition.  The newer addition was actually a rehabbed 19th century building that was great to wander around in.  After walking around for an hour or so, buying a couple of things in the gift shop we wandered out looking for a place for lunch.  We walked up Le Grand Allee and then went up Avenue Cartier that we read was a nice street with lots of local places.  We ended up going to a pub called Turf-Pub that was kind of a sports bar that was packed.  We had a great lunch of huge sandwiches, salad and of course more bier.  We hung out for quite a while and then walked back towards the old town.  We decided to take our siesta up on the patio area outside of the pool.  Although it was a bit chilly, the sun was out and it was really nice laying out on the chaise lounges.  I fell asleep for awhile and Courtney lounged about reading.  Early evening we walked down to the lower town where we haven’t been yet and wandered around the many quaint streets, shops and along the waterfront.  There wasn’t much going on as it was a chilly Tuesday night.  Again, we weren’t very hungry as we had a huge breakfast and a huge late lunch so we ended up at a local Irish pub, le Pub St-Alexander, where we drank beer, had a plate of cheese and crackers and watched Canadian hockey.  Perfect wrap up for a great trip.

The one side of our hotel was under construction

happy to see the sunshine

sculpture on the art museum steps

new wing of the art museum that was an old factory

looking out over the river

patio outside the art museum… more tulips.

graffiti outside the museum

the little square outside of our hotel

looking up at le Chateau Frontenac

street in the lower town with the funicular in the background

relaxing

a nice way to spend the evening

one more… it is the most photographed hotel in the world afterall. Bon soir.

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

We woke up around 5:00 AM and hit the road right away as we had a long journey home.  We said our au revoirs and had an uneventful 12 hour drive home. Long car rides are so much easier with no children!   We enjoyed our long weekend and are excited for our trip next year hopefully to Germany / Austria / Somewhere around those parts.

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