Toronto to Halifax

Sunday 25th September, 2016
Monday 26th September, 2016
Tuesday 27th September, 2016
Wednesday 28th September, 2016
Thursday 29th September, 2016
Friday 30th September, 2016

Sunday 25th September, 2016

Drop Cap his morning, after a delicious breakfast at the hotel and a walk to a local drugstore for some more painkillers for Geoff, we checked out and dragged the bags to the Station. We checked them all in then sat in comfort in the Business Class Lounge until departure time at 1130.

ViaRail to Montreal photograph
Via Rail Business Class

Drop Cap usiness Class was very comfy, lots of leg room and they had booked us seats facing each other separated by a table. It was designated as being reserved for groups of three or four, so we had it to ourselves. The train hostess brought us drinks and packets of spicy nibbles, then a hot towel. I told Geoff that we were about to unfold wings, it was so like a plane. After a while we were brought lunch, choice of chicken, pasta or cold salmon nicoise salad which I had, the men had chicken. I had a somewhat restricted view but the scenery was nothing spectacular, farming country generally, lots of fields and typical Dutch style barns. Two massive solar farms.

Hotel St Sulpice photograph
Hotel St Sulpice

Drop Cap e arrived in Montreal at about 1700 and taxied to the Hotel St. Sulpice in the Old Town, near the Cathedral. I don't know whose idea all our hotels have been but they must have had delusions of our affluence!

Hotel St Sulpice 2 photograph
Hotel St Sulpice

Drop Cap otel St. Sulpice is the best of them all. It is an all-suite hotel, we have adjoining suites with a connecting door. It is the biggest, most beautiful hotel room I have ever been in. I opened the door and just dropped everything, including my jaw!

Hotel St Sulpice photograph
Hotel St Sulpice

Drop Cap t is huge, with sofas and armchairs, coffee tables, desk, full kitchen with microwave and Nespresso machine and a gas log fire! Pity it's not cold enough to need it!

Hotel St Sulpice photograph
Hotel St Sulpice

Drop Cap have taken several photographs but they do not do the room justice. You can't fit enough of the room in one photo and the light is not too good, but take my word for it, the Hotel Saint Sulpice is wonderful! I particularly liked the location, in the old town. It is so European, narrow cobbled streets, even a young woman playing an accordian opposite, like the soundtrack of a movie.

Rue St Sulpice photograph
Rue St Sulpice

Drop Cap e unpacked a bit then walked out onto the narrow cobbled and twisty streets to find somewhere for dinner which we had in an Indian Restaurant called Le Taj Mahal. Not bad and not too expensive.

Drop Cap e then had a fairly long walk around the area, beside the St. Lawrence Seaway and up into the Old Town. It is a beautiful city but in our area they are doing major roadworks.

Drop Cap e are being picked up tomorrow at 0725 for our tour to Quebec City. Don't quite know how a bus will get down our narrow street. The taxi had enough trouble. See what tomorrow brings.

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Monday 26th September, 2016

Geoff at Hotel St Sulpice photograph
Geoff Outside Hotel St Sulpice

Drop Cap p bright and early this morning to get down to the restaurant at 0630. We just had croissants and coffee and went out to await our bus. It was about twenty minutes late and the doorman phoned the company who sent a mini bus to pick us up and take us to the company's office in the middle of the CBD.

Bridges over St Lawrence River photograph
Crossing the Mighty St. Lawrence River at Quebec

Drop Cap e joined the bus and were soon on our way to Quebec City, a four hour journey. We stopped at a services place halfway for toilets and snacks, then went on.

Crossing the mighty St. Lawrence River by some great old bridges we came to the centre of the historic area, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Old Quebec photograph

Touring Old Quebec

Old Quebec Photograph
In Old Quebec City

Drop Cap he historic centre of Quebec is wonderful, picturesque, almost authentic and divided into two sections, one high, one low. We started with the low section. It has walls (Quebec is the only walled city in North America - I don't count Mexico), it has cobbled alleyways and lovely old timber houses.

Old Quebec photograph

Halloween Display in Old Quebec

Old Quebec Photograph
In Old Quebec City

Drop Cap or a whole day we forgot we were in the New World, it was so European, especially given the language; we felt we were in France. Mac says the history books may say that the English defeated the French in Quebec, but the reality is that the French remain to this day. It was so great!

Mural in Old Quebec photograph

Part of the Mural in Place Royale

Mural Photograph
Part of the Mural in Place Royale

Drop Cap he Place Royale is the centrepiece and has the church of Our Lady of Victories and a building painted with an amazing trompe l'oeil mural depicting the lives of some ancient and modern peoples. It was a wonderful piece of art and a great use of a blank wall.

Mural Quebec Photograph
More of the Mural in Place Royale

Drop Cap e had an excellent guide called Katia, who was very good value, said everything fluently in French and English and had something to say to every nationality group among us.

Montmorency Falls photograph
Montmorency Falls

Drop Cap e got back into the bus and went upriver a way to the Montmorency Falls, a very attractive "chute", where we had a photostop and fed Geoff some morning tea. While not Niagara, it was a fine day and a great stop.

Chateau Frontenac Photograph
Chateau Frontenac Quebec High Town

Drop Cap hen we went up into the "high town", site of the Battle for Quebec won by Britain's General Wolfe. I impressed Katia when I told her I had learned about it at school (nobody else had) and I explained that when I went to school, all the history we were taught was English.

Frontenac Photograph
Chateau Frontenac Quebec High Town

Drop Cap p here in the high town is the amazing Chateau Frontenac Hotel, another of the Railways' Chateau hotels. Apparently this one is no longer owned by Fairmont! It is an incredible pile and looks more like a real French chateau than any of the others.

Quebec Scene Photograph
Stairway in Old Quebec

Drop Cap hen the tour had finished, the three of us went to the port where we boarded our river cruise. They took our photo with the Chateau Frontenac in the background and sold it to us later. The cruise was a pleasant meander up the river, passing the island of Orleans, (about the size of Norfolk Island but in a river!) until we got back to Montmorency Falls, to see it from another angle.

Quebec Scene Photograph
Halloween Decorations in Old Quebec

Drop Cap e had an hour and a half free time after this so we had coffee and cake in a café, bought a couple of souvenirs, then got back on the bus for the four hours home.

Drop Cap e got back to Montreal about 2000 and were dropped as close to the hotel as the bus could come, but since we needed dinner we walked back a little way to Chinatown and had a delicious (and very big) meal in a Cantonese restaurant.

All in all, a very good day. I really loved Quebec City.

Note 1:
Mac saw his first cat today in the Old Town, made his day!

Note 2:
When we got back to the hotel, we found our door had been deadlocked from the inside, also the communicating door with Geoff's room was locked. We had to get the Concierge to find a key before we could get into our room.

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Tuesday 27th September, 2016

Drop Cap oday we slept lateish then wandered off to a local patisserie café recommended as the best croissants in town by our concierge. They were indeed delicious, but we felt, pricier than the Continental at our hotel, so we will breakfast here tomorrow.

Amphibus Photograph
The Amphibus

Drop Cap rom here we walked down to the Old Port (currently on strike, it appears, and pickets were around) to find the Amphibus, an amphibious vehicle like the London Duck Tours, which we never got around to. We bought tickets for 1100, then went back to clean our teeth.

From the Amphibus Photograph

Amphibus Takes to the Water

on Amphibus photograph

Rosemary and Mac on board the Amphibus

Montreal Skyline Photograph
Montreal Downtown Skyline from the Amphibus

Drop Cap he Amphi tour was half on land, through the Old Town and half on the harbour, which gave us a good look at some of the historic buildings and the Downtown area. We had a fun guide, more in the Bullshit Tour mode than a serious exposition, and we all enjoyed the trip.

Sculpture Alley Photograph
"Moose?" Sculpture in the Alley

Drop Cap hen we got back we walked up to a "healthy" lunch place, all too healthy for Geoff, very salady, but nice for Mac and me. I am obviously getting familiar with the layout here as I led us unerringly to a former alley, now a garden, which led straight back to the hotel. There were fountains and some quirky sculpture. One looked as though it was made out of the blade of a crosscut treefelling saw but I think it was meant to be a moose. I could well be wrong about that though.

Place d'Armes Photograph
Montreal Place d'Armes

Drop Cap ut and about again, after a rest, and headed up the street to the Place d'Armes, a large open space with some interesting buildings, one of which looked remarkably like the Pantheon in Rome.

But ultimately, the Place d'Armes is dominated by the Cathedral of Montreal, Basilica de Notre Dame. This is a beautiful building, in English Gothic style, reminiscent of Westminster Abbey. Inside it is more than somewhat OTT as regards decoration but not as ornately so as the Baroque style we saw in Europe.

Exterior Cathedral Photograph
Outside the Cathedral

Drop Cap t was quite dark inside which made photos difficult but there was statuary, paintings, gilding, stained glass and at least three organs, one of which was in the newer Chapel of the Sacred Heart, which replaced one which had burned down. I rather liked this one, it had a really interesting bronze altar piece. The Cathedral was quite crowded; I am as always amazed by the number of male tourists who have never been told they should remove their hats in church.

282 Marche Bonsecours Photograph
Marche Bonsecours

Drop Cap hen we left we walked down to the Marche Bonsecours, a former market like Covent Garden but now holding mainly boutiques of craft and clothes. We had coffee here at a place that was just setting up a photoshoot for interviews but we left before they started.

298 Old Montreal Photograph
Old Montreal

Drop Cap fter leaving here we walked through Place Jacques Chartier where the British put up a statue to Lord Nelson and the French riposted with a statue of the French admiral. The Place was full of artists' stalls and looked very Continental. Back to the hotel, trying to decide on a place for dinner.

Old Montreal  Photograph

Old Montreal


Drop Cap e decided on a chain restaurant we have seen all over Canada, called The Keg. It was very full and we had to wait fifteen minutes for a table. The food was surprisingly good, Geoff had his usual default, BBQ ribs, which he said were very good, Mac had a Caesar salad with grilled chicken breast and I had bacon wrapped chicken, beautifully cooked and served with mash, coleslaw and asparagus. I had a glass of pinot grigio, the others stuck to water, although Geoff had had a pint of cider while we waited. It was all good, $102 plus tip! Mac is worrying me because he has developed pains in his back. Tomorrow we will be hauling luggage again on our way to Halifax. Oh dear.

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Wednesday 28th September, 2016

Drop Cap ur last day in Montreal. We had a leisurely breakfast in the hotel dining room, very nice too. Then we packed all the bags and left them with the bell crew before heading on foot out on the town. We walked quite a long way, trying to avoid all the road, pavement and building works. Every road we have been on around here has been full of road workers and heavy machinery.

Canal Lachine Photograph
Beside Canal Lachine

Drop Cap e found ourselves eventually beside the Canal Lachine and its large lock system, no longer used since the St. Lawrence Seaway was opened. We saw the canal on our amphibus tour yesterday. It was sunny and quite warm today so We had coffee here then wandered back to the Old Town.

Montreal Sculpture Photograph
Quirky Sculpture ("Weight Watchers Meeting")

Drop Cap n the way we passed another of Montreal's quirky sculptures. I named this one "Weight Watchers Meeting" because it reminded me of the chat and fun of our meetings.

Drop Cap e returned to the Marche Bonsecours to see the prize winners of the press photographic competition. They were mostly amazing photos, a couple of Aussies, all press photographs so they were all rather depressing subjects; refugees, Syria, earthquakes, explosions, rape, etc etc. Good news doesn't sell papers!

Old Montreal Skyline Photograph
Skyline of Old Montreal from the Old Port

Drop Cap hen we enjoyed a leisurely lunch at a local café, the Papillon, very nice and filling, then we walked to the Old Port and sat on a bench, killing some time in a very interesting area.

Drop Cap round 1630 we went back to the hotel and collected the bags and taxied to the Station. On putting the baggage in to the check in, Geoff's bag was found to be four pounds overweight so the woman suggested we repack some more into the duffel, otherwise there would be an extra charge of $45! So we juggled things a bit and managed to get the weight down.

Drop Cap he train ("The Ocean") left on time. We have a little sleeper cabin like on the Indian Pacific, very "compact". We are all harking back to our luxurious Prestige cabins on The Canadian. We have decided not to bother with showers tomorrow, too cramped.

We had a good (far too much) dinner and will get breakfast and lunch tomorrow. Came back to the cabin and the bunks were made up so we decided to go to bed. We are all very tired.

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Thursday 29th September, 2016

Drop Cap ather patchy sleep, the bunks are not too bad, nothing as bad as the Indian Pacific, but still not too good a night.

Seen From Halifax Train Photograph
Community Church seen from the Halifax Train

Drop Cap reakfast was a solid Continental which included fresh fruit, cherry yoghurt, muesli and toast. All good. The scenery was pleasant all day, woods, lakes, rivers and some small communities, most with attractive churches, if very little else.

First Colour Photograph
Glimpse of Autumn Colour

Drop Cap have to admit to a certain disappointment as I was so looking forward to the autumn colours of the turning leaves, but the summer has been so hot and protracted that they are only just starting to turn. Nevertheless, there were a few sections where the colour had come in, everything from yellow and orange, salmon pink, scarlet and crimson. Just not the serried ranks of colour I expected, made me realise what I was missing. Perhaps Prince Edward Island will be further forward.

First Colour Photograph
Glimpse of Autumn Colour

Drop Cap e were an hour late getting in due to the usual waits for interminable freight trains and we then got a cab to the Lord Nelson Hotel, another beautiful period hotel, built in the early '20s. The ceilings in the foyer are amazingly decorated and the restaurant has a really interesting pressed copper ceiling. Lovely. We had a reasonably priced dinner here (or would have been before tax of nearly 15% was added). I think this system is iniquitous and if I lived here I would be up in arms about it. Why are they so afraid to post the real price? To quote one price so that the customer expects to pay that, then to add so much at the till smacks of sharp practice to me. Add the obligatory tip to all staff and it gets much more expensive than it looks. However, that's the way it is and we have to go with it.

Halifax Hotel Photograph
Our Room, Lord Nelson Hotel, Halifax

Drop Cap ur rooms were close together on the same corridor and were quite spacious.

Drop Cap omorrow we will reorganise the luggage and pack an overnight type bag for PEI so we can leave the heavy luggage here in store until our return. That's a relief. We have to catch a bus to Charlottetown and the luggage would be a pain. See what tomorrow brings.

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Friday 30th September, 2016

Tourist Bus Photograph
The Pink Bus in Halifax

Drop Cap nother bright morning as we partook of our complimentary breakfast before heading out to explore Halifax.

We headed on foot for the Waterfront, historic port area, where we found the Maritime Museum. This very interesting museum held details of some of the more tragic occurrences in Halifax history, the most interesting to us being the Titanic, of course, Halifax being the port to which the survivors were brought (and also the dead, for ID and burial). They had some Titanic relics which were interesting and evocative.

The museum also detailed the wreck of the Atlantic, another White Star liner which ran aground off Halifax in late Victorian times with massive loss of life. It's a wonder that White Star Line survived itself, really.

Drop Cap he most affecting exhibit concerned the Halifax Explosion of 1917 which killed more Canadians than the Western Front. An ammunition ship, packed to the gills, collided with another ship in the harbour and started on fire. The captain and crew abandoned ship, allowing it to drift helplessly into the wharf where it exploded, causing major calamitous damage. They said it was the worst man made explosion before the Atomic Bomb. The explosion caused fires all over the area, like the earthquake in Napier NZ, with much the same result. Horrendous!

Old Chandlery Photograph
Old Chandlery at the Maritime Museum

Drop Cap he museum also contained the Old Chandler's Shop, which is the building the museum grew from. It remains much the same as when it was the major refitting outfit for sailing and engined ships in the port. Very interesting with lots of artifacts known and unknown.

Theo Tugboat Photograph
Theo the Tugboat

Drop Cap nother quirky exhibit, in this country of quirky public displays, was "Theo the Tugboat", who is a TV star in Halifax. It is a children's program on the lines of Thomas the Tank Engine, the Tugboat is the star and there are several other boats with facial features which are his friends.

Halifax Waterfront Photograph
Halifax Waterfront

Drop Cap e had a takeaway lunch at a picnic table on the waterfront, then walked through one of the "historic buildings" an old warehouse converted to shops and eateries. Mac bought me a pretty ring from a stall selling crystal and quartz (only $12)

Citadel Clocktower photograph

The Citadel Clocktower

Citadel Guard Photograph
On Guard at the Citadel

Drop Cap hen we headed uphill (Halifax is very steep, in fact the concierge at the hotel advised walking to the port but getting a taxi back!) towards the Citadel. This Victorian star shaped fortress is still intact, it was still an army establishment until 1951 when it was taken over by Parks Canada.

Citadel Barracks photograph

The Citadel Barrack Room

Citadel Ambulance Photograph
Footpowered Ambulance at the Citadel

Drop Cap t is very interesting, manned by "soldiers" of a Scottish regiment, who had all the facts at their fingertips and also demonstrated musket fire and a cannon. They had a Changing of the Guard ceremony and generally seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Citadel Barracks photograph

Inside The Citadel Barrack Room

Cannon Drill Photograph
Prepare to Fire

Drop Cap fter exploring the hard life of the soldiers, and watching the cannon drill, we had some coffee and bought a few souvenirs, then walked back to the hotel. We are leaving really early tomorrow morning before the kitchen opens so will have to find something for breakfast. Don't know how we will go.

My pedometer today read 11,249 steps - 6.75 kilometers.

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