Catching up

Internet access has been sort of spotty on the trip. So has cellphone coverage; I’ve got no service here at Smuggler’s Notch Resort. Pretty scenery, though, and the trees are showing signs of their autumn colors. For the most part, things are still green, but every now and then, you’ll catch a bit of orange or red peeking through.

In any case, we flew into Montreal on August 26th. Wandered around the old part of the city that evening, took a bus tour of local attractions the next morning, then drove to Quebec. We stayed at a B&B in the walled part of the old city for three nights, and had a really good time. However, there’s a tourist kitsch coffee cup where the cup portion is only a half-cylinder, which states “Quebec was so expensive I could only afford a half-cup of coffee!” Believe it. Even with the continental breakfast at the B&B, I don’t think we spent less than $100/day for lunch and dinner for the two of us. Another word of warning: don’t expect good iced tea in Canada. Apparently, “iced tea” is Canadian for “pre-sweetened, pre-lemoned somewhat-tea-flavored instant drink mix.”

We took a walking tour our second day, which was quite good (ask for Jules, he’s a very good guide). We also took a bus tour, which wasn’t anywhere near as good. I went off by myself for the Musée de la civilisation – they had an exhibit on Dragons I wanted to see. It wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, although they had a few interesting items included in it. What I did enjoy seeing there, though, was the exhibit “Au Pérou avec Tintin.” They were celebrating Hergé’s centennial with an exhibit about Peru using the related Tintin adventure, with original strip art interspersed with Peruvian artifacts. Fun stuff.

When we left Quebec, we drove out to Riviere-du-Loup, where we took a whale-watching cruise. It was pretty good … we saw beluga (which only appeared as white lumps in the water), minke whales, a pod of about 10 fin whales at pretty close range, and some white-finned dolphins.

The next day (Friday), I spent my birthday traveling down New Brunswick and into Maine, as we had reservations at a motel in Bar Harbor. I was sorry I didn’t pay more attention to the road signs. I’d love to have gotten a picture of the sign pointing the way to St. Louis du Ha! Ha!, but we were past it before I noticed. I expected there’d be a more interesting story behind the name, though.

No trouble crossing the border, but we did run into an immigration checkpoint about thirty miles in. That was interesting, for a moment or two.

“Both Canadian citizens?”
“No, American.”
“Both of you?”
“Then who does this car belong to?”
“It’s a rental. We picked it up in Montreal.”
“Okay, thank you.”

A good place to eat in the Bar Harbor area is The Chart Room, by the way. Marion bought me a lobster dinner for my birthday, and she had the scallops. She got the much better meal; she says she’s been ruined for any other scallops (although I expect her to keep trying to find the equal). She had the blueberry pie for dessert; I had the strawberry shortcake. Loved them both.

Saturday, we toured Acacia National Park, then hit the L.L. Bean factory outlet store in Ellsworth. I bought way too much, but you couldn’t beat the prices. Then we went back to the Chart Room for dinner. I had haddock, shrimp, and scallops baked with cheese and seasonings. Marion’s become ruined for halibut, also. This time, I had the blueberry pie, while Marion had the apple crisp.

Sunday, we drove here, stopping near Ellsworth to go through The Big Chicken Barn, over 21000 square feet of antiques and used books. I picked up three 1964-vintage Analog magazines, one of which contains the H. Beam Piper story, “Gunpowder God.” If I’d realized that they were only $1 apiece before I got to the counter, I’d have picked up more of them. I also picked up a pen-and-ink drawing that looks like it’s an illustration from a 30’s pulp magazine.

We ate dinner at one of the restaurants here (the Morse Mountain Grill). The food was good, but they use instant for their iced tea, and the ambience was about like a Furr’s.

Monday was a day off … we sat around and did not much of anything. Went to Jeffersonville to check out the restaurants, and found nothing much there, so we had dinner at Stella Notte, which is just down the road and pretty good.

Yesterday, we took a day trip back to Montreal. We wanted to see the underground city (not that interesting, from the portion we saw) and the Botanical Gardens (second largest in the world, we were told). The Gardens were incredible. I can believe they’re the second largest; just the Chinese Garden itself takes up perhaps half the acreage of the Denver Botanic Gardens. Then you’ve got the Japanese Garden, the First Nations Garden, the Shade Garden, the Alpine Garden, the Ornamental Vegetables Garden, the Exhibition Gardens, and I haven’t even started on the greenhouses, the tree sections, the Courtyard of Senses, and the other sections I can’t remember off-hand. I’d want to have a week, to view them completely. Then I’d want a year, so I could review each section once a week throughout the year.

We ate dinner at Madison’s, which bills itself as a “New York Grill and Bar.” All dark wood and burgundy leather, black-clad attendants, and wonderful food. Marion had the salmon, and I had the seared tuna. We decided that I had chosen the better meal. Had to happen, sooner or later.

As we left the restaurant, my cellphone rang. It was my daughter, who had been trying to call me since Friday, but had run afoul of the spotty coverage. She didn’t get me, she didn’t get my voicemail, she just heard it continue to ring. I’d had some troubles, myself. In Quebec, Marion called and left me a message (I’d gone off to a museum while she did something else). I was able to call her after I left the museum, but I couldn’t access my voicemail until we got to Bar Harbor. Inconvenient, but such is life.
Today’s another quiet day. Tomorrow, we’ll take a sunset cruise of Lake Champlain. We also plan to tour the Ben & Jerry’s factory sometime, and we’ll probably dine a time or two in Stowe, which is just the other side of the Notch.

We fly back into Denver on Sunday, and I’ll be ready to take a break from taking a break.

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