Day 18 – Ontario to Quebec

Today dawned bright and clear, a complete contrast to the grey overcast skies of yesterday. It was also noticeably cooler than previous days. We woke just before my alarm was due to sound at 7:00 am. Breakfast was delayed a little while Majella dealt with some work email. The motel offering was simple, juice, coffee, cereal, bagels and bread for toast, but more than enough. We were packed and out just after 8:30 am.

Rather than go directly to the highway Majella drove back into town where I picked up a loaf of olive and rosemary sourdough bread from Pan Chancho. We’d seen that last night and thought it looked good so our plan was to buy a loaf of good bread while we were able and add the rest of the makings for lunch as we went along our way.

We took the alternate route out of town, pausing to refuel on the way, and were soon heading north-east on the 401. In looking at the map I noticed that Gananoque, a town not far along the way, was close to the St Lawrence river and might give us a view of the Thousand Islands area. That sparked Majella’s memory of a cruise brochure that our host last night had given her when she went to photocopy more hexagons and mentioned to him that the cruise from Kingston was on its restricted Fall schedule. I dug it out of her bag and confirmed that the cruise company was based at Gananoque and offered a variety of cruises including a couple of one hour excursions that departed at 10:15 and 10:30 am. The 10:15 am cruise from Ivy Lea, a few km further on, looked best suited to us but we had plenty of time and decided to check out Gananoque first and confirm that the cruise was on. Gananoque was on the river and had some interesting old buildings. We drove around to look at some of those before heading on to Ivy Lea to catch the cruise.

We arrived at Ivy Lea with a bit more than 15 minutes to spare before the cruise, bought our tickets and waited with an already sizable crowd at the wharf. There was plenty to look at up and down the river with houses crowding the shore and several large and small islands in view, mostly with houses on them. It was all picturesque and inviting for my camera. Around 10:15 am our boat arrived from down river, discharged a load of passengers and allowed us aboard. We headed for the top deck where, despite the crowd there were still seats and space at the rails. Majella sat and I stood at the rail for a better view with my camera. Despite the chill air that was reinforced by a stiff breeze at times that’s where I stayed for the duration of the cruise with my camera clicking away. I was glad that I had put a light jacket over my t-shirt and was wearing a hat, though that was sometimes in danger of being lost in the breeze. Toward the end I was almost wishing I’d brought gloves. It really was quite cool and my fingers were beginning to feel numb, making it more difficult to use the camera. Regardless of that I took over 100 photos during the cruise and will upload some selections to Flickr. The whole area is one of natural beauty and the houses mostly blend in though there are a few jarring notes and some notable oddities. The most notable of those is the European style Boldt Castle built by George Boldt who owned the Waldorf Astoria hotel. It was his chef who developed the Thousand Islands dressing named for the area. Our cruise went as far as and around the island with the castle which is on the USA side of the border.

By the time we disembarked it was past time for morning coffee. Majella was warm from being on the second deck but I was feeling a bit chilled. She suggested coffee at Rockport, a village a few km down river that we had passed on the cruise. We arrived there to find another cruise port and several buses parked with their passengers milling around waiting to embark. The bar at the wharf did not have cappuccino (machine out of order) so it was out for Majella who does not appreciate regular North American coffee. We walked across the other bar/restaurant. I forget now if they had coffee because Majella decided that 11:45 am was lunch time and we each had a bowl of potato and bacon soup. The soup arrived quickly and was good but I do remember that 2 bowls at $4.50 each came to $12.50 after they added tax and a gratuitous gratuity of $1.50. The service smacked of Fawlty Towers with the proprietor almost dissuading guests from eating on the basis that the more of them there were the longer it would take to get food to the table.

Majella drove on from there until she spotted a sign to the Iroquois lock on the St Lawrence Seaway and thought we should take a look. The seaway is a major engineering feat but there was no action to be seen while we were there. We did eat some of the bread we had bought this morning with cheese we had from last night and the nectarines we were carrying. That, added to our soup, made a a reasonable lunch.

I drove from there until we reached Coteau du Lac where we stopped briefly to change drivers so that Majella could drive the final 60 km or so into Montreal with me navigating. We made it through the traffic to our hotel with a few redirections occasioned by turns not being possible where the GPS advised a turn or missed because traffic prevented a critical lane change. We passed the Hotel Quartier Latin on our first attempt because Majella’s attention was drawn to Le Gentlemen’s Choice next door. We stopped further down the street and I walked back to confirm the location of the hotel before we circled some blocks for another attempt. There was a free short term space in front of the hotel where we were able to stop while we checked in and got our luggage into the room. We were advised to pay for parking in the underground car park at the library around the corner and managed to do that. We are hopeful that we will find the car and be able to escape tomorrow.

We walked back to the hotel, collected a map and some directions and then walked down Rue St Denis toward the river. Once there we explored an art and craft market in a repurposed historic building before spending an hour or so walking about the streets in an older area of town enjoying the buildings and some of the shops. As the sun dropped and the wind rose it began to get cooler and we began to think about heading back toward our hotel and finding dinner.

We had already decided to eat at one of the many establishments in Rue St Denis near the hotel. Majella was keen to try poutine, a Quebec specialty. I was not so sure about that because neither of us knew what it was except that it was a local dish. We found one small place that offered it but the range of alternatives was very limited and we backed off. We eventually decided on Les 3 Brasseurs which was just down the street from our hotel on the other side of Rue St Denis. They offered a wider range of choices and a warm space on the upstairs terrace. We both had poutine – essentially french fries, with grated cheese and gravy, and an optional topping of meat. Majella had Le Viande Fumé (smoked meat) and I had Le Philly (finely sliced steak with mushrooms and caramelised onions). We washed those down with the house celebration beer, a blend of light coloured beer and chardonnay with 8% alcohol. Comfortably filled we headed across the road to our hotel to rest in the warm.

Distance today was 344 km according to the tracking app on my iPhone but that included distance on the cruise and walking around Montreal this evening. Tomorrow is another relatively short driving distance but who knows what we will find along the way. It seems more and more that the chance finds along the way are among the most interesting things that we are seeing.

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