Montreal Trip - June 2008

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Writeup by Gwen
Pictures taken by Rick
(Note click on image to view larger photo)

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Canadian Check Point

We started out early Tuesday morning on June 10th and made our way up to Montreal, passports in hand. Customs actually wasn't that bad: "Where are you going?" "Montreal." "How long are you going to be there?" "Four days most likely." "Whose car is this?" "Mine." "Where are you staying?" "Don't know." "Any friends there?" "No."

The question I found weird was, "What's your professions?" We kind of stumbled a little over that one - with Rick being unemployed and all.  We came up with "Programmer" for him and "Graphic Artist" for me, but do they really expect someone to say "Terrorist"?

Anyway, after all that we got our passports stamped and a, "Have a good time."

I don't think it was noon yet and we decided to stop at the first visitor center.  The girls were nearly tripping over themselves, "Hey welcome!  Where are you headed?"
"Montreal." I really just wanted to look at their wall art and use the bathroom.

"Where are you staying?" Why is that such a big question? Especially since Rick and I usually drive till we don't want to drive anymore and then we stop at the first place that looks cheap BUT clean. "We figured we'd figure that out when we got there." "Well you can book your hotel here!" That perked my ears a little bit.  Folks with no particular vested interest offer to find a reputable establishment; don't ever turn that down my friend.

We gave our limited criteria: cheap and clean
And were offered up many options.  Turns out that even at hotels in the city, you have to pay for parking - didn't know that.

Hotel we Stayed at in Montreal

Originally we had imagined finding a place outside of town, but Montreal is an island city (somehow I had missed that fact as well) and the hassle of driving in and out of the city would be annoying, so they got us a place in the city at a good price with cheaper parking than most places, but still accessible to just about anywhere we wanted to go.

Most happy with our accomplishment, we got back in the car (after making full use of the facilities), and continued on our way.
The girls at the center had also provided splendid directions as well as a detailed map, so getting into the city and finding the hotel was a snap.

The hotel was indeed cheap, but clean, but the room was TINY and the AC couldn't be controlled within the room (apparently it was central AC and everyone got the same arctic breeze). Want it warmer? Open a window.

The parking was also BEHIND the building.  No small feat since the buildings are stacked about three deep per block - this meant traversing narrow, unmarked alleys not originally meant for modern auto-vehicles, to a tiny nook that held three, maybe four cars on a good day.

Good enough - not like we're terribly ritzy or high-scale people.

Montreal Old City

So, the day was still young and we figured we'd walk around and take in the sites of the Old City down by the piers on the southern end of town.

We did have to dodge passing rain showers, but we always managed to be near an over-hang or outcropping right when things opened up (plus I can read clouds and could gauge - fairly accurately - the timing and intensity of precipitous events).

Clock Tower in Montreal

Gwen on Stairs of Clock Tower in Montreal

Rick at Top of Clock Tower

In our explorations, we visited an old clock tower that one can climb up. Only 193 steps - piece of cake!!! ;P

View from Clock Tower in Montreal

There were some beautiful views from the top of the clock Tower!

We made it back to the hotel still in daylight. We turned in early (around 8:00 I'd guess) and called it quits.

Biodome at Montreal

Inside Biodome at Montreal

Day 2: Turns out Montreal has a fabulous indoor zoo called the "Biodome" - had to check that out!

We made use of the city's marvelous subway system and were there in no time.

The tall structure in the background of the upper photo is a leftover from the 1988 Olympics.

The Biodome was fun - they have various habitats under one roof.  It's pretty neat.

View from Olympic Tower Lift

View from Olympic Tower in Montreal

After that, we took the lift up the Olympic tower which offered a wonderful 360 degree view of the city!

Botanical Gardens at Montreal

Insect Museum at Montreal

Just walking distance away is also a Botanical Garden and an Insect Museum - both must sees!!!

Rick at Botanical Gardens in Montreal

Fox in Botanical Gardens in Montreal

Flower at Botanical Gardens in Montreal

Botanical Gardens in Montreal

During our stroll through the gardens, we were visited by one of the parks three resident foxes!

All said, we did a fair amount of walking that day before getting back and crashing for the day.

Planetarium in Downtown Montreal
Gwen at Planetarium in Downtown Montreal

Day 3: There's a planetarium in downtown Montreal - we HAD to check that out. As this was the day we were checking out, we took the car with us this time. Montreal is a delightfully drivable city.  Sure it has it's share of crazy cabbies, but it also has strict rules on no right on red - making for very sane traffic stops.

You do need to be mindful of the bikers - Montreal is very much a cyclist's haven and there's folks on bicycles everywhere you turn.

So we make it to the Planetarium and pay our parking (nothings free in this city) and find that the place isn't even open yet. So we go and explore the underground city. You see there's two parts to Montreal - the usual, above-ground portion and a whole subterranean part that's mostly shops and eateries. There was such a section near where we were so we walked around there for a bit before returning to our original destination.

As all planetariums, this was certainly geared more for the younger set with just enough to keep the "oldsters" engaged.  It wasn't spectacular, but it was worth visiting.

View of Montreal from Mount Royal

Park at Mount Royal in Montreal

Cross at top of Mount Royal in Montreal

Then we drove up to Mount Royal - one of the highest points of the city, and therefore, one of the best places to get a full view of the city (like the Panorama pic). There's plenty of hiking trails - which Rick and I utilized.
Now notice all this walking we're doing: I'm in pretty good shape, but three days of solid walking and my body was certainly starting to protest. Rick - of course - was in his element.  He walks all over the place at Raquette Lake and he's had plenty of time to get into shape.  The most walking I ever do is the (maybe) quarter mile hike across the parking lot at work. Little Gwen was in pain.

So we maybe didn't hike as much as Rick wanted, but he was happy to hop in the car and say our goodbye to Montreal after a brief circuit around one the more major trails.

After passing though customs again (with an added trunk search after the same question we got asked coming in), we made our way down the thruway with the notion we'd stop at a nice little state park in Vermont to camp for a day or two.

Since we were both rather tired at this point, we stopped in Plattsburgh instead and got a room for the night - much more spacious and, well, American than the one we'd been in for the past two nights.
Welcome to Vermont Sign

Day 4: Gwen hurt.  Gwen no walk no more.
We unanimously decided that if we had a satisfying visit to our chosen state park, that we'd forego the camping and just go home that night. Sounded great so off we went.

We crossed into Vermont and made it to our destination with no trouble.
Gwen on Huge Chunks of Granite in Vermont

After quickly assessing the park's offerings - a lake open to swimming and trails open for hiking - Rick somehow managed to talk me into a "short" hike around a nearby lake. He agreed that at any point if I wanted to stop and go back, he'd agree.

I must say that climbing up and over huge chunks of granite was rather rejuvenating for me - I like rocks. ;P

Rick by Waterfall in Vermont

Rick at Overlook of Lake in Vermont

We came across a stunning waterfall (see "Rick on the edge" in top photo), and ended up at an amazing overlook that displayed Vermont's wonders.
Gwen slowly working her way into the lake in Vermont

At this point, Rick was quite willing to pass on the hike around the lake as we'd already witnessed some breathtaking beauty, so we headed back to the swimming lake and took a dunk.

The water was chilly enough that one needed to adjust s-l-o-w-l-y, but once you were in, it was great.

Having found complete satisfaction with this visit, we did indeed hop in the car and make it back to sunny Ballston Spa at around quarter after six that evening. All told, we only traveled 435 miles - that's a little over a round trip to my mother's house.  Not bad at all!

Rick and Gwen in Howe Caverns

Howe Caverns

Howe Caverns

We took Saturday to vedge (and for my poorly abused muscles to recover a little), then we headed out to Howe Caverns on Sunday since Rick has never been there and it's a crying shame to be only an hour from something so wonderful and never visit it (I was there when I was nine).

Then Rick will head back to Raquette and I get all of Monday to chill and finish recouping.

So, that was our "big trip" for the year.
It was quite fun despite all the walking and weirdness of Canadian hotels.

Hope you enjoyed the intrepid tale!


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