It was a milder night and a fine morning. We crossed the Ottawa River into Quebec Province. We immediately noticed that signs were in French only! We had lunch at a covered picnic table beside a pond at Waltham. It was a pretty spot, but there was a lot of litter around. A group of young girls at the other table were conversing loudly, almost every other word being f….
As we drove on we stopped to view a covered bridge – Pont Marchand at a place called Mansfield et Pontefract. The bridge had been built in 1898 and washed away several times. It is now a National Monument.
Pont Felix Marchand
We turned off to travel north for a few miles to see a bit more of this area. It was pretty country.
At Kazabazua we turned south through Wakefield towards Ottawa. The route, beside the Gatineau River, was really pretty, but there was nowhere at all to stop. We therefore continued, on a bit of motorway, across the Ottawa River into Ottawa, and then found our way to Orleans, to the east, where we thought that there was somewhere we could stay. The reality was not so simple, so after much dithering, we pulled into a gravel parking area.
Monday 12th September 18 miles
After a mild night, we were up at 7.00. I suggested going across to the Park and Ride car park to have breakfast. We were amazed when we got there to find that the vast car park was all but full, and we just managed to find a space in the far corner!
We set off, and had a wonderful day in Ottawa. The weather was brilliant – really hot and sunny. The bus system is an example to all cities. Initially it used the hard shoulder of the motorway, diving off to bus stops at each junction. Then there was a dedicated bus road, - like its own private motorway, with huge bus interconnections to other routes. It was so efficient, that everybody seemed to use it, and although there were thousands of buses, they all seemed full. So travelling in by bus worked well, and by 9 o’clock we were wandering around the almost deserted streets of Ottawa in the warm sunshine.
Canadian Houses of Parliament
We found it to be an extremely clean, calm and quiet city at that time of the morning. The parliament buildings are impressive, and set in a lovely situation above the Ottawa River. They are reminiscent of London’s Parliament buildings, but there are also gothic, European looking buildings. It was so nice to be there, with almost no-one else around. An incongruous touch was the ‘cat sanctuary’ – a fenced off area of hutches, where cats are fed daily, a stone’s throw from parliament! We were able to look at the various statues in peace, before the crowds arrived! Amongst others, there was one of the Queen on horseback, one of Queen Victoria, and one of early Canadian women activists.
There was also one of Terry Fox, the inspirational young man who died of cancer in 1981, aged 22, after attempting to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research – we had seen a film about him, and there is a ‘Terry Fox cancer run’ taking place soon.
We found people very helpful – if we stopped for a moment with our map, somebody immediately came to our rescue!
We picked up a leaflet on a walking trail and followed it across Portage Bridge to Gatineau – in Quebec. From here we had views back across the wide river to the misty parliament buildings.
We had an early lunch of sushi (R) and calzone (A) in the cafeteria of the Museum of Civilisation, looking back across the river. Lots of walkers and joggers were puffing by.
We crossed back on the Alexandra Bridge, and came to the highlight of the day – the set of 8 locks on the Rideau Canal. This canal was built in the 1820’s, to provide a route from the Ottawa River to Kingston on the St. Lawrence River. We were delighted to see that two boats were going through the locks.
Rideau locks Ottawa
We watched until they got to the top, and then wandered through the streets some more. Markers and interpretive signs abounded, and there were numerous boards with poignant large black and white photos of 1945 celebrations for the end of World War 2.
We were looking for a book shop, so that we could find a ‘Lonely Planet’ on Canada. Eventually we found one, and bought a small Canadian road atlas too. The lady assistant was very chatty, and told us of the Farmers Market in another part of town. We managed to find our way there, through all the huge shopping malls before catching the bus back to Orleans.
Again this worked really well, and by 4.30 we were back at the Bam. We headed out eastwards, stopping on an odd bit of road at Rockland at 5.30. It had been a great day, and we had really enjoyed Ottawa.
It was a very warm evening.
Tuesday 13th September 123 miles
Another mild night and a misty morning, which again turned hot. We drove around and logged in and received several messages. One, from Joe and Irene, said that Bob and Joyce had lost their house in the New Orleans hurricane, which was very upsetting to hear.
We drove east on Route 17. We entered Quebec Province, and stopped at the Visitors Centre, where a very helpful lady gave us lots of information on Montreal, which we are hoping to visit.
We continued onto ‘Montreal Island’, and turned off to St Annes, where we had lunch beside Lac St Louis. It was very hazily pretty here. The Ottowa River and the St Lawrence River join near Montreal, with 2 lakes – Lac St Louis and Lac les deux Montagnes, and Montreal spread around the lot.
Now the nightmare of driving around vast Montreal on fast motorways began. Absolute hell!
We survived it. We were heading for a ‘freebie’ we had heard of, but on not being able to locate it, we continued to Alouette RV Park, so that we could visit Montreal tomorrow. This was another type of hell! Everything I hate! RVs lined up in rows, right near a busy motorway. The site was expensive enough, by our terms, but you still had to pay for showers! The worst thing was that there was a pleasant (filled) swimming pool, but it wasn’t in use! It was a really hot humid afternoon, and I longed for a swim! I wasn’t very happy!
Adrian decided to pay for an internet connection (another $7).
He had wanted the internet connection as he had been hoping to find reasonably priced flights to Calgary, so that we could visit Simon and Laure, but this wasn’t possible.
We walked up in the dark to try to ring Simon, but got no reply.
Wednesday 14th September Our day in Montreal.
We awoke to see a red sun and the windscreen heavy with dew.
We were up early to prepare for our day in Montreal, but before leaving, we moved to a different pitch, next to an open field.
It was a really beautiful day, but at first we had to work hard at enjoying it!
We were picked up at 8.25 by a large coach. We very soon got stuck in traffic, and were at a standstill for some time – nothing like the Ottawa system! We then realised that we were going on a detour, and were actually heading for the KOA campsite, many miles south of ours to pick up people there. We had decided not to stay at this site, as we usually think that KOA sites are overpriced. We were really miffed to see that the site was so much nicer than ours!
We finally arrived in the centre of Montreal at 10 o’clock.
We found the Downtown area very bland and modern, with just a few buildings to add interest – the huge ‘Mary Queen of the World’ Catholic Cathedral; the smaller Anglican Christ Church Cathedral, and the Gothic St. George’s Church. The city seemed big, busy and noisy.
We tried to find the Underground area – there are 33 km of passageways with shopping arcades – but we kept finding only the subway or the metro, and it was only just before we left that we found a shopping area.
We made our way to the Old Port, and things began to get better! Adrian enjoyed seeing the locks on Canal de Lachine. This canal was built in 1825 to bypass the Lachine rapids on the St. Lawrence River. It was itself bypassed when the St. Lawrence Seaway was opened in 1970.
As we were walking past the Old Port, about 4 fire engines raced up, blaring their sirens. Firemen rushed into Edifice Allan – an ancient building on the waterfront. It would seem to have been a false alarm as the firemen ran out again, and all then had to manoeuvre the fire engines out of the area. Earlier we had seen an ambulance scream past and stop by the metro, rushing down with equipment on a stretcher. A film crew (cameraman, sound recordist and script girl) were standing there, which may have been coincidence. So it was all happening!
We had lunch in a pleasant little ‘local’ place – excellent soup, salad and thick Spanish type omelette, before wandering around more of the old town. It was very atmospheric around Place Jacques Cartier, with outside eating places, boldly coloured flower tubs, evocative musicians and ‘Nelson Column’!
‘Nelson Column’ Montreal
Everything seemed so French, that it was hard to think that we weren’t in France and it seemed ironical to us that this statue to Nelson, erected in 1809 was here!
We made our way through the lovely old market building back to the old port, which was delightfully absent of tourists! We even sat and refreshed our feet in the cool water.
We looked across the water to Parc Jean-Drapeau. This is formed by two islands – Ile St Helene and Ile Notre Dame. These were created in the early 1960’s with the millions of tons of spoil from building the Metro. The World Fair was held here in 1967, and other things of interest on the islands are the Formula One racing circuit, a huge Funfair, and the Casino.
We now took the metro to Mont Royal, and from here took a bus up the ‘mont’. This is where Jacques Cartier apparently looked down from in 1535 and chose the name Mont Royal (Montreal). We walked through pleasant woods to a viewpoint down over the hazy city – a bit different from what Cartier would have seen!
Montreal from Mont Royal
We had planned to walk down from here, but sod’s law, the path was closed and being rebuilt! We did, however, find our way down another way, and made our way back to Dorchester Square, where our coach would be leaving from.
We had time to enjoy an ice cream before our 5.40 departure. A lovely surprise was that, after the initial traffic jam, we had a really good run back, and were taken to our campsite first. The journey took just over half an hour, instead of this morning’s hour and a half!
Phoned Si and Laure – they were out first time. Tried again later, then Si tried to look for cheap flights for us, but unsuccessful. On way back to Bam last time, it rained really hard, but still very warm.
Thursday 15th September 157 miles
There was more rain in the night – later we found out about hurricane Ophelia, which had hit the Outer Banks, so perhaps we were catching the end of it.
The morning started grey, but became warm and bright later.
We had a big excitement though! After much trouble – fortunately the computer logged in again, even though we hadn’t paid for it - and phone calls to Simon, we have booked a flight to Calgary from Ottawa for tomorrow – 7.00 am!
By the time this was all organised, we had had both coffee and lunch!
We found to our consternation that Calgary was much colder than here.
We set off, and it was really slow going around Montreal, with both road works and traffic. It did give us the chance to see some of the sights, as the visibility was better today. We could see both the cross and the church on Mont Royal.
By 3.30 we had crossed into Ontario. After that, it was full steam ahead to Ottawa. We found our way to the airport, and were really pleased to find that we could stay overnight in the Bam in the long term parking area, where we were going to leave it.
It was now 5.45. We got ourselves sorted for our ‘holiday’.
Friday 16th September
The alarm went at 4.45, but we were already awake. We sorted ourselves and walked across into the terminal. Ottawa airport is small, calm and quiet, so everything went well.
On our 4 hour flight we were served only drinks and nibbles, so were glad of the sandwiches I had made. We left at 7 o’clock, and arrived at Calgary at 9.20 local time.
We watched various TV programmes, mostly news. It was cloudy for much of the time, but we did see some of the Great Lakes, and a lot of wilderness of northern Ontario.
We had seen that the temperature in Calgary was 7ºC, compared with 23ºC in Ottawa, but it didn’t seem that bad when we arrived.
We soon met up with Simon, and he drove us back to their house, stopping off to see Laure, who was working today, and seeing her work place.
In the afternoon we drove to Glenmore Reservoir and had a pleasant walk. The leaves were turning colour.
We had a barbecue all together in the evening, and chatted until bedtime.
Father and Son!
Saturday 17th September
A lovely day for Adrian’s birthday, with perfect blue sky and sunshine.
After a hearty breakfast, and opening of cards and presents, we set off with Simon driving for Lake Louise.
The Rockies, with their fresh dusting of snow on the peaks, enticed us towards them.
After the drive of nearly 200 km, we joined the crowds in the car park, and along the always busy walk by the lake. However many times you have seen it, the view is still out of this world.
The classic view
We ate our sandwich lunch sitting by the lake before leaving the masses, and setting off to walk up to the Teahouse. Much of the walking is in the trees, but glorious views abound in every direction.
We enjoyed Mirror Lake, and then a bit further on, Lake Agnes, with the yellow of the larch trees adding another dimension to the already exquisite colour combination of blue sky, white snow, green firs, brown rock, and of course the unbelievable turquoise of Lake Louise itself.
Adrian couldn’t have wished for anything lovelier for his birthday, as we continued further up the climb to the ‘Beehive’, from where there were even more breathtaking views. I just about coped with the steep walk up, not being fond of heights, and many people looked at Laure – ‘that crazy pregnant woman’, as one man said!
Simon and Laure above Lake Agnes
The long descent back down to Lake Louise did drag a bit and we didn’t reach the car until 6 o’clock. Simon expertly drove us all the way back to Calgary, where we rapidly got Adrian’s birthday supper ready.
After a prawn starter, we ate barbecued steak followed by a delectable raspberry gateau which Simon had made as Adrian’s birthday cake, complete with candles. After such a wonderful day, we were all well ready for bed!
Sunday 18th September
Another beautiful day. A lazy morning – we spoke to Tom on the phone.
After lunch, sitting on the balcony, we left for a walk along Fish Creek with Simon, while Laure went to visit some friends. There were some nice yellow autumn colours.
Simon cooked roast duck for supper, and we looked through a ‘slide show’ of our photos of this trip.