Canada: Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec City

Maple Taffy on Snow Canada

This past week for my spring break, Chris and I visited Canada. We started off in Ottawa, visiting two friends, Stuart and Malle. They gave us a nice car tour of downtown Ottawa, as well as the falls along the river, and made sure we tried the delicious Ottawan dessert of a “beaver tail”: fried dough covered with toppings ranging from maple icing to sugar and honey.

Stuart grilled an awesome dinner at home that night, and the next day they took us out into the backcountry to a sugar shack, where we saw how maple trees are tapped for syrup and had some delicious pancakes and maple syrup.

So basically we ate our way through Ottawa. Then we took a train to Montreal, where we spent a day exploring the Vieux-Montreal area, near the waterfront, with its old port and museums and French architecture.

The really lovely Basilica of Notre Dame is there- worth going into even though they charge an entrance fee- really one of the loveliest cathedrals I’ve been in. It was the first Gothic Revival church built in the Americas (1824), and has featured the funeral of Pierre-Elliot Trudeau, the wedding of Celine Dion, and a visit from Pope Jean Paul II. Happily for us, a choir was inside practicing for Easter services, so it made the visit even nicer.

The next day we hiked up to the top of Mount Royal, to see the city from above. Along the way, we meandered through the Plateau district, which largely houses students from the city’s universities, as well as the main library for the province of Quebec. I really enjoyed looking at the literary-themed murals painted on buildings near the library. The area had a fun nightlife, and we enjoyed visiting a micro-brewery there that evening.

After another round of poutine and maple donuts, we boarded a train bound for Quebec City. Checking into a super cute hotel, the Port Royal, we headed up… and up… and up for old town Quebec City. Built on a cliff, the fortress and the old city look out over the St. Lawrence River.

The most famous building in Quebec is probably the Chateau Frontenac (said to be the most photographed hotel in the world, according to Guinness Book of World Records), so we made sure to take our requisite number of snaps there. We also toured the fortress (for Chris), and visited the Morrin Center, the oldest existing learning society in Canada, now a working library and museum (for me).

On our last full day, we took a public bus out to Montmorency Falls, where there was still quite a lot of snow and ice. The Falls are actually the tallest in Canada, but obviously not as wide as Niagara. Really beautiful to look at. That night, we took a ferry across the St Lawrence River, to get a look at Quebec City lit up at night (plus we had to get a final shot of Hotel Frontenac).

At the airport we had just $20 Canadian dollars left- enough for lunch and half a dozen Tim Horton donuts to bring back with us (maple iced, of course).

Next up for us: The 5Boros bike ride in New York City, then Chris will be hiking the Camino Santiago in May!  Check back soon!

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