Canada 2009 - Travel by rail to Montreal, Quebec and Ottawa plus a weekend in Stratford

This summer we traveled by train through eastern Canada.  Starting near Hamilton, we made stops in Montreal, Quebec City and Ottawa.  A 2-for-1 senior discount made First Class travel about the same price as a pair of rail passes.  First Class was as good as European trains -- First Class lounge in the station, nice seats, good food and continuous wine.  It was much better than driving, especially since our trip was city focused.

Montreal was Pat?s favorite because of the architecture and art.  This is the Montreal museum of archaeology and history.  A four day bus and subway pass made transportation easy.  Rental bicycles were also available at every subway stop and bike lanes and parking were everywhere.

                                                                                                              Colorful houses in the Plateau neighborhood.

  Left, a typical French cafe -- we learned that chocolate croissants are really good!  Right, Olive + Gourmando cafe -- great for lunch with creative sandwiches and salads.  We also had good meals at Boris Bistro and La Gargote in Old Montreal and Misto in the Plateau.  Our innkeeper introduced us to a good new restaurant, Carte Blanche, in the Latin Quarter/Village.

Habitat, built for Montreal's EXPO 67 and is now private apartments.

And now to Quebec City.

A historic reenactment La Fete Plien La Tete was taking place in Lower Old Town while we were there -- seemed like fun but too crowded for our tastes.

Riverside view of the old Frontenac Hotel.  We did not stay here -- a little pricey.  We found a nice inn Au Chateau Fluer de Lys nearby, just as convenient and not as crowded.  Fluer de Lys included a breakfast coupon for a restaurant two blocks away.  If I had it to do over I would try FdL's sister hotel Chateau de Lery 1/2 block away.   Lery has breakfast on site and wireless Internet. 

The boardwalk in front of the Frontenac overlooks the St. Lawrence River.  A funicular takes you down to Old Lower Town.

Pat outside La Lapin Saute -- a great find since Pat loves rabbit.  Our haute gourmet dinners in Quebec were at Laurie Raphael down near the market in lower old town and Le Graffiti in St Jean Baptiste.  There were large markets in all three cities similar but better than our West Side Market. 

This is at one edge of the historic Battlefields Park which is next to the Plains of Abraham.  The latter is large and a great place for walking and birding.

And now to Ottawa

The Parliament buildings in Ottawa are beautifully cited on a bluff above the Ottawa River.  The river divides Ottawa, which is in Ontario, from Gatineau in Quebec. 

Left, downtown Ottawa seen from Gatineau.  The locks of the Rideau Canal are in the center.  Right, the Parliament buildings from across the river.  Steve favored Ottawa because of the grandeur of the public buildings, the sights along the river and the By Ward funky market/shopping/dining area.  Take the boat tour!

The Rideau Canal divides Ottawa.

         Another view of the Canal, looking North.           Lunch at the National Arts Center along the Canal.

A huge spider sculpture sets off the National Gallery of Canada on the Gatineau side.

The Museum of Civilization, on the Gatineau side of the river.

The Museum of Civilization documents early life in Canada.

This colorful ceiling was above a spiral staircase.

An Inuit sculpture.

The Governor General's Mansion is on beautifully landscaped grounds.  Every visiting head of state gets to plant a tree -- supposedly the only crooked one is Nixon's.

Changing of the Guards.


Ottawa's Experimental farms were a riot of color.

The Albert House Inn in Ottawa was the best lodging of the trip.  It is conveniently located for walking to central Ottawa and even over the river to Gatineau.  The bus from town stopped across the street and the bus to town was a block away.  All day passes were sold on the bus.  The best/most interesting restaurant in Ottawa was Play Food and Wine, Steve Bekta's new bistro.  Each small plate was paired with a wine.  We had a nice dinner and live jazz at Vinyards Wine Bar Bistro.

The food everywhere and the language made us feel like we were in France.  The trains and public transportation are much better than in the USA.  we used buses and subways in every city.  Thanks to Pete Turner and Carrie Buchanan for information on restaurants and jazz venues.

Stratford & Shakespeare

We ended the summer by joining our friends, Sarah and Bill Hufford at the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, ON, Canada.  We have gone every year for over 10 years. If you like theater, you'd love Stratford.  It's Shakespeare but also 1 or 2 musicals and other notable plays.  And, surprise, great food because of a local culinary school.

Left: the Stratford Festival Theater.  Right: Steve, Pat, Sara and Bill outside our B&B, The Three Houses.