Monday, August 25, 2014

Quaint Québec

Québec city, the capital of Québec province, is located two and half hours east from Montréal on the bank of Saint Lawrence river.  You suddenly feel you've travelled back in time to medieval France if you visit Vieux-Québec with châteaus, citadels, cathedrals, churches and colonial buildings all over the town.  Québec is divided into Upper Town (Haute-Ville) and  Lower Town (Basse-Ville).  Upper Town is located up above the hill that overlooks the river while Lower Town is at the level of the river which could be reached either by stairs, streets or funicular.

The most remarkable building in the town is definitely the majestic Château Frontenac, an opulent hotel called officially as Fairmont Le Château Frontenac.  I was told that it's the most photographed hotel in the world, not sure how true it is.  Terasse Dufferin, the courtyard right in front of the chateau is a great place to stroll along.  We then walked around Promenade des Gouverneurs, Plains of Abraham, Governors Garden, Rue Saint Louis, Auberge Du Tresor, Notre Dame du Québec, Chalmers-Wesley United Church and Parliament Building before taking a break at one of the bakeries for coffee and snack.  The free tour of Parliament is a definite must do, it's every hour and lasts for about 40minutes and you get to see the well ornately decorated ministerial chambers and get a brief introduction.  We were told that the restaurant inside the parliament is open for public, the food is reasonably cheap and they grow most of their supplies in the garden just outside the parliament building.   Unfortunately by the time our tour ended, the restaurant was closed.  We then had a short break at Paillard on Rue Saint Jean, I simply loved their coffee, it was strong and small unlike in the US where it's usually tall and tastes crap.  The croissants and buns were fresh and yummy as well.

We rushed to our parking spot for we had crossed our four hours limit and I didn't want to get a ticket while I was on vacation.  We drove to Lower Town and spent an hour walking around on Rue Notre Dame, Rue de la Place and Rue du Petit Champlain.  Petit Champlain is one of the most beautiful shopping streets I've ever seen - aesthetic boutiques, jewelers, restaurants, souvenir shops, performing artists.  I felt Lower Town was a lot more artsy than the Upper, it's got beautiful murals on the side walls of the buildings and modern art displays. We were running out of time and energy, we started driving back towards Montréal at about 6 in the evening.

Vieux-Québec is a quaint little town with lot of history and European feel to it.  We just didn't have enough time to do everything, I would definitely love to go back and spend more time in the city to see, do and click more.
Château Frontenac

Fresque des Québécois

View of Lower Québec from Upper Québec

A pretty building on Rue des Grisons

Art gallery on Rue de la Place

Notre-Dame de Québec

Varieties of bread at Paillard on Rue Saint Jean

Rue Saint Louis

Chalmers-Wesley United Church

Modern art on  Rue du Sault au Matelot

Fontaine de Tourny with Parliament in the background

Red Roof of Auberge Du Tresor Hotel with tower of Notre Dame de Québec in the background

A waitress at the entrance of a restaurant on Rue du Petit Champlain

Wild display at one of the stores on Rue Sous le Fort

Boutique Pot-En-Ciel on Rue du Petit Champlain

Parliament building

View of Notre Dame from Côte de la Fabrique

Fontaine de Tourny

Inside the Parliament building

A colourful hydrant

Beautiful buildings on Avenue Saint Denis

A beautiful fountain right beside Château Frontenac

Stained glass canopy at the entrance of Hôtel du Parlement du Québec

View of Château Frontenac from Rue Mont Carmel
View of Château Frontenac from Terasse Dufferin

Kids beat the heat at a fountain next to Château Frontenac
Horse carts on Rue Saint Louis

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Merveilleux Montréal

I had to accompany my father to Montréal for his participation in Fina Master 2014 diving event and that resulted in a week-long vacation with 4000km of flying, 3200km of driving covering 4 major Canadian cities and Niagara falls.  It took about 9 hours of driving from JFK airport in New York City to reach Montréal downtown including nasty NY traffic, immigration at border and couple of coffee breaks.  The day we reached we didn't do much except for checking-in at the event counter to get the badges and then at our motel, followed by a quick dinner and slept.

The following day we did Parc Jean Drapeau and Vieux Montréal (Old Montréal).  Montréal is amazingly convenient to go around due to its metro system, thanks to FINA event, we got 9 days pass.  Place D'Armes and Champ De Mars are two stations that are closest to Vieux Montréal, we got off at the former one and walked around Square Victoria, World Trade Centre, Notre-Dame Basilica, Rue de la Commune - water front, Rue Saint Paul, Art festival at Place Jacques Cartier, City Hall, Château Ramezay, fountains at Vauquelin Place.  Place Jacques Cartier had lots of art stalls - artists selling their paintings and caricaturists busy drawing portraits, musicians giving a performance and also there was a small Brazilian carnival.  Rue Saint Paul is a busy pedestrian-only street which gives you feel of Europe - street-side bars and cafes, art galleries, souvenir shops et. al.  We didn't enter Notre Dame Basilica due to the long queue, but we spent quality time shooting the basilica at the square.  The city reminded many of the colonial cities that I had seen in Mexico, what was missing was reasonable, delicious food - all I got in the downtown was either crappy fastfood, which I didn't want to eat or splurging French restaurants, which was out of my budget.  We had to satiate our hunger by pastries and coffee often.

Another day that we had in Montréal, we hiked up Mont Royal from the Mont Royal metro station.  The area seemed very local with no much tourists and nothing that was beautified a lot to attract the tourists.  Apparently this small hill at the heart of downtown is the one that gave the city it's name Mont Royal --> Montréal.  The hike was an easy one with few easy trails and a stretch of stairs that lead to Mount Royal Chalet which has got a panoramic view of the city.  The chalet's got restrooms, souvenirs, maps and a pantry with microwave oven and vending machines.  We then took 2 buses to get to Saint Joseph's Oratory which is a modern structure that lies at a great elevation and needs quite a lot of stairs to be climbed to reach the top most part.  There's Brother Andre's Chapel, a small old building right behind the oratory which I liked better than the oratory itself.  We then walked around a farmer's market and then took metro to reach Vieux-Montreal and went to Marche Bonsecours, the exorbitant market which we got out in no time and sat at a cafe on Rue Saint Paul and checked out few art galleries. 

The motel that we stayed was Motel Rideau which was right on the banks of Saint Laurent river in Brossard.  Every evening we got our dinner from La Popessa, an Italian fastfood restaurant which I loved.  The food there was very hygienic, made very fast and right in front of you, very delicious and very inexpensive.  We sat on the banks of the river with food and beers every evening and had our dinner with a terrific view of the setting sun and pleasant breeze from the river.

Overall I loved Montréal, unfortunately I didn't too much time to explore more of the city.  When I look at the travel guides I realize I haven't done half of what's suggested in it.  There's always a next time, methinks!

Stay tuned for Quebec, Ottawa, Toronto and Niagara.

Came across this beautiful blog on Montreal:

A kid runs around the fountain at Vauquelin Place, City Hall to left and Nelson's Column to the right

A man lazes in the central square right in front of Notre Dame Cathedral

Biosphere inside Parc Jean Drapeau

 "The English Pug" by Marc-André J Fortier
A lone traveller at Square Victoria OACI metro station
Le 357 C hotel on Rue de la Commune in Vieux Port
A family walks past the art booth on Place Jacques Cartier

Galerie D'Art
Horse carts are quite a popular means of transportation in Vieux-Montréal

Facade of Colonial buildings with tower of Notre Dame on Rue Notre Dame E
The artist and his dog near Cote-des-Neiges station
Caricatures and Chinese girl at Place Jacques Cartier
Bullet proof, a conceptual clothing exhibition inside Biosphere
City Hall of Montreal

Mural close to Mont Royal station
The towers of Édifice Jacques-Viger, now Hotel Viger, seen from Rue Notre Dame

Kids enjoy at a Pirates event at Place Royale in Vieux Montréal
More art work on Rue Notre Dame
City hall reflection
A small carnival at Place Jacques Cartier
Dames around Notre Dame
Botanical coat-of-arms

Art stall on Place Jacques Cartier

Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel
Old styled Fire Sprinkler on Rue de la Commune
City Hall and Nelson's Column

A view of Snowdon station

A street side farmer's market near Cote-des-Neiges station
Pilgrims climbing on their knees at Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal
Goddess Kali says "Merci"

Another view of Snowdon station
Honey honey honey at farmer's market
Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal
Ben and Jerry's Frozen Yogurt at  Place Jacques Cartier

The French Poodle sculpture by Marc-André J Fortier

Horse cart driven inside the parking log on Rue Notre-Dame

Downtown Montréal from Parc Jean Drapeau

Hôtel-Château Pierre du Calvet on Rue Bonsecours

Street side cafe and shop

Kids get caricatured at Place Jacques Cartier
Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal
Montreal city tour bus
Inside World Trade Center
Kids have fun at a pirates themed event
Statue of Notre Dame on the facade of basilica
An exhibit inside Biosphere at Parc Jean Drapeau
Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel