Atlantic Canada: Quebec and Ottawa

Looking up at Chateau Frontenac from Lower Town

Sept 30 – Oct 6
Quebec City, Quebec and Ottawa, Ontario

The end of our trip was not technically in Atlantic Canada as we spent our last six days in Quebec City and Ottawa, Ontario, but I’m going to stick with my heading anyway. 🙂

Sept 30 – Today we drove about 2 1/2 hours to the town of Montmagny, Quebec, about an hour outside of Quebec City.  We decided it would be easier if we weren’t rushed trying to make a certain time when dropping off the rental car in a large city, and this would allow us time to reorganize, tidy up the car, and find the downtown rental office before 11am.

We left Edmunston NB around 10 am and soon crossed the border into the province of Quebec. It was cool and foggy when we left but gradually the fogged lifted and the blue sky was revealed. When we reached the St Lawrence River, near Riviere-de-Loup, we turned west and drove along quiet side roads rather than the highway, so we could enjoy the rural area along the southern shore of the St Lawrence River.  Sometimes referred to as The Navigator’s Route, this area includes some of the oldest settlements in Canada, dating back to the early 1600’s.

All along the route, there were parks, information centres and museums, pretty towns, rolling farms, and lovely views of the river estuary. We made many stops along the way, including lunch at a riverside picnic site.  There, we took pictures of the boats in the receding tide, and the flocks of sea birds.

We arrived at our hotel in Montmagny and checked out the town, and then spent a little time unloading and reorganizing all of our stuff so we would be ready for the car drop off the next day. It was our last day with our little Fiat 500 and I would miss it!

We had our rental car for 3 weeks, drove 4560km in 72.3 hours, and spent $296 on gas. That’s 560km further than I had expected but we spent $100 less on fuel than planned so I was happy. Gas is cheaper in Atlantic Canada than out west.  The cheapest was about 97 cents/litre and the most expensive was $1.10 on Cape Breton Island.

Oct 1 – Today we had a quick breakfast and then drove an hour into the heart of Quebec City, filled up gas, dropped off the car, and walked a few blocks to our hotel where we still stay the next three nights.

Quebec City is expensive so I’m glad we were able to find some less expensive places to stay on this trip to offset the cost of the city. Of course we would have loved to have stayed at the Chateau Frontenac but $800 for a double is a bit over our budget. As it was, we had to pay $160/night, tax included, for the Hotel Acadia.

Our first stop was at our quaint little boutique hotel which was well located within the walls of Old Quebec and walking distance to everything. It was too early to check in so we dropped off our bags, took a load of laundry to a laundromat down the road, and then had a leisurely lunch at a small bistro nearby.

Since we had a fridge in our room, we picked up some ham and cheese and buns at a market and made a sandwiches in our room that evening, because we didn’t feel like going out for a big meal.

Oct 2 – It was supposed to rain today but it turned out to be warm and sunny right up until dinner time. Because it was so nice out, we decided to do outdoor stuff and we had a great time visiting the Plains of Abraham park area. My 5G grandfather, Henry Goldrup, fought for the British on at the Siege of Quebec on Sept 13, 1759. It was cool to stand on the battle field and imagine what it might have been like 250 years ago.The park is very large, with beautiful grounds and trees all in a pretty show of colour.  There are a few roads that loop around so you can drive through the park if you want, but it was within easy walking distance to our hotel so we just wandered on our own.

We visited some of the major sites and monuments and just took is easy. Tomorrow we plan to go to the Plains of Abraham Museum and perhaps take a tour of the Old Quebec ramparts that surround the city.

Oct 3 – Today was a sunny but very windy day. In the morning we went to the Plains of Abraham Museum where we watched a video and looked at displays that explained the Seven Years War and the Siege of Quebec. Most of it was pretty interesting but the video could be improved and the $12 price was a bit steep for what you get. Still, I’m glad we went, since the family connection made it all seem more worthwhile.

Afterwards we went back to the hotel to regroup then we walked down a long steep staircase to the Lower Town where we looked for, and found, the site of a pub called the Sign of the Bell, which was owned by Henry Goldrup in the late 1760’s.  It was here that he lived with his French wife, Jane, and their two small children. In 1768, he sold the pub and the family got on a ship bound for PEI, where he died in the harbour as you may recall in my PEI blog post

The current building at that addresss was built in 1880, so Henry’s pub and home is long gone, but I did enjoy walking down the Rue du Petit Champlain and imagining them living there so long ago. Although the street is now packed with trendy little shops and restaurants, they’ve kept the historical feel. We stopped at Cochon Dingue (Crazy Pig) for a delicious bowl of French Onion Soup and then carried on our way.

The Queen Mary ll was in port today and what a massive ship it was. It absolutely dwarfed the other cruise ships docked nearby. We walked up and got a close look. It has 1200 crew and 3000+ passengers, most of whom were packing the streets to shop, eat, and take pictures. I KNOW I’m a tourist too but ugh – the downside of visiting Quebec City is the onslaught of cruise ship passengers. Le sigh.

We were too late and too tired to do the Fortifications Rampart Tour at 2:30, and it was chilly and windy despite the sunshine, so we headed back home around 3:30 and relaxed until dinner.  We chose to eat at Chez Murphy’s, a French-Irish pub that had live music and decent good.  We found a table close to the musicians, and chatted with a couple of fellow tourists are our table.  Lots of fun!

Oct 4 – Today we had a leisurely morning, visited the Chateau Frontenac, and then packed up and walked  15 minutes or so to the station to catch our 1pm train to Ottawa.

I’ve really enjoyed Quebec City and we didn’t have enough time to see everything we wanted to see, but it’s an expensive place (hotels, restaurants etc) and there are too many cruise ship tourists. I can’t imagine what it must be like in the summer.

We had reserved seats and checked baggage on the train so there was no stress to get on, and as usual, we gave ourselves plenty of time. The train was comfortable and so much roomier than flying and less stressful than driving. However the wifi sucked (it automatically slowed once you used 75mb which for me is nothing) and the food was awful. We were near the back of the last car of five and it took about 90 minutes for the food cart to reach us and of course by that time, there was very little left. I had an awful egg salad sandwich on dry bread (no butter or mayo) and I think was made with eggs mashed with a little water to moisten them. Seriously. It also had a piece of very limp lettuce. Luckily I had some packets of salt and pepper in my purse and so that added the only flavor. Erik had a ham sandwich on gluten free bread which he thought was ok. If I was to take the train again, I would take my own food.

We arrived in Ottawa at 7pm and took a taxi to our B&B then walked to a grocery store and got some pasta and bread for dinner.  Our room has a kitchenette with fridge and microwave and that certainly is nice once in awhile, plus it saves a lot of money.

We are supposed to be close to the Byward Market part of town – not sure exactly what that is but I guess we’ll find out tomorrow when it is light out. We did notice that every restaurant in the area is ethnic food – Ethiopian, Lebanese, Chinese, Indian and much much more.

Tomorrow we will check out the town and hopefully go to Parliament and watch Question Period at 2pm. Should be interesting!

It is supposed to be sunny and warm while we are here. 20-22C.

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Oct 5 – Today we had a bit of a slow start because I didn’t sleep well and I was tired, but once we got going, we had a great day.

We caught the city bus down to Parliament Hill and found out we were too late to get tickets for a tour – I guess you have to get there by 9am and get in the lineup. Boo hoo. Then we found out we could possibility get a seat for watch Question Period in the House of Commons. We hung out in front of the parliament building for an hour or so, just watching for politicians (we saw lots but only recognized Catherine McKenna for sure) and admiring the beautiful buildings (did you know there are two more huge buildings, one on either side of the famous parliament building we always see in the photos? I didn’t.)

Since it was noon on a Wednesday, there were several hundred people doing yoga on the lawn as well as various protesters.

The other good thing about Wednesdays is that they have caucus meetings in the morning so almost everyone actually attends Question Period. In addition, they had several important votes today as well so there was lots going on.

Question Period started at 2 and we were told to get in the line up around 1:30 but it was already getting pretty full at 1:00 so we checked our backpacks at the storage place and got into line early.

Just for fun, I got on Twitter and found our local MP, Stephen Fuhr, and asked him if he was going to be in the House of Commons today for Question Period. I thought maybe if he responded, he might be able to ensure we got into the gallery but he didn’t see my tweet in time. Luckily, we made it in around 2:20 after having my purse searched twice, going through two baggage X-ray screenings and walking through two metal detectors. And after all that, they still took everything we had and kept it while we were in the gallery. I’m glad they are so thorough to keep everyone safe.

Question Period was interesting and I could have watched them all afternoon but they only let us stay about 30 minutes and then they had to start clearing the gallery as QP ended. We were the first to be moved out and so we were able to go up to the top of the Peace Tower and the Memorial Room while nobody else was in line!

That was all we were allowed to see without having a tour ticket so we sat out on the lawn for a little while and then found a pub close by – The D’arcy McGee – and had some late lunch / early dinner. I checked my phone and saw that Stephen Fuhr had replied to my tweet saying he had been at QP and was sorry he hadn’t seen my message earlier. On a whim, I tweeted back and asked him to come over to the pub and we’d buy him a beer.

Amazingly, he came over, although he stuck with water because he only had an hour before he had to get back for the votes. We had a great time picking his brain about government and politics in general. He was a really nice guy and spent at least 45 minutes talking with us. Well done Mr Fuhr!

We caught the bus back to our B&B around 6:30 and planned to relax for the rest of the evening. We have part of the day tomorrow to see something else and then we have to be at airport by 5pm to catch our plane home. I’ve had a super time but I am REALLY looking forward to being home.

Oct 6 –  In the morning we checked out of the B&B, took the city bus back downtown, and left our suitcases at the free storage for people visiting the parliament buildings. Pro Tip: you aren’t supposed to do this unless you actually have tickets to visit parliament – which we didn’t – but we didn’t know that and the lady kindly turned a blind eye and so we got to leave our suitcases. The ticket/storage building is right across the street from the parliament buildings.

We hung out downtown for most of the day, wandered around the Byward Market area and also checked out the locks on the Rideau Canal until it was time to head to the airport.

At 3:30 we picked up our bags and caught Bus 97 to the airport (30 min). We had a very bumpy 5 1/2 hour flight to Vancouver, probably one of the scariest flights I’ve ever been on.  It was pouring rain when we arrived at YVR and there was a rain and wind warning so our 11pm flight ended up being also 2 hours late.  We were pretty tired by the time we got home.

Other than that, we had a super trip, and I absolutely loved seeing another part of my own country, as an adult.  Travelling to Europe, or to southern sunny destinations, is always exciting, but I really think that at some point, we all need to see other part so of our own countries to truly understand its history and culture. Canada is indeed a unique, diverse, and beautiful land and I am truly blessed to live here.

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