Category Archives: exploring

September 7: My third ferry of the trip, believe it or not.

I’ve ridden ferries in Virginia, Maryland, and now Ontario. This one was by far the longest ride, though, almost two hours.

I got a late start this morning, and was eating breakfast at the picnic table at my campsite when I heard a soft rat-a-tat-a-tat. I looked up, and saw a woodpecker. Bigger than a downy, considerably smaller than a pileated, I’m assuming he’s a hairy woodpecker, but I’d love confirmation (hint, hint, Katrina [g]). Anyway, he was a brave little fellow, and just looked back at me as I walked over to get a better look at him. A nice way to start the day.

A friendly neighbor this morning.
A friendly neighbor this morning.

I went back to Tobermory, looking for somewhere to go out of the humidity, and also looking for wifi because I wasn’t sure if I was going to end up somewhere that had it tonight. The librarians at the Tobermory library were very nice about letting me charge my computer and use their wifi, so I sat and scribbled for a while, then uploaded blog posts. Then I walked over to the local bookstore just around the corner, and bought another fridge magnet as well as perusing the books.

By that point it was time to get in line for the ferry. There were rather a lot of us crossing over to Manitoulin Island. The ferry holds 143 vehicles and I’m pretty sure it was full. The boarding process was smooth, if a bit slow, and we pulled away pretty much on time.

The beginning and end of the ride are dotted with islands, but for at least an hour the view is nothing but lake. I am told it can get pretty interesting during a storm, but today the ferry was gliding across still water, which made me very happy. And the views, even when it was just water, were so pretty.

The first of four lighthouses I saw on my ferry ride today.
The first of four lighthouses I saw on my ferry ride today.
Looking back at the Tobermory ferry landing.
Looking back at the Tobermory ferry landing.
Islands on the Bruce Peninsula side.
Islands on the Bruce Peninsula side.
The second lighthouse of the day,
The second lighthouse of the day,
At times, because of the humidity, it was hard to tell where the lake stopped and the sky began.
At times, because of the humidity, it was hard to tell where the lake stopped and the sky began.
The last two lighthouses of the day, on Manitoulin Island.
The last two lighthouses of the day, on Manitoulin Island.
The South Baymouth ferry landing on Manitoulin Island.
The South Baymouth ferry landing on Manitoulin Island.

We arrived on Manitoulin Island right on time, unloaded much more quickly than we loaded, and off I went up Highway 6 towards the tiny hamlet of Manitowaning, where I found a motel room for the night. Showers and wifi and TV [g]. The desk clerk/owner directed me to the only place serving cooked food in town, a place called Loco Beans, which mostly serves coffee, but which served me a chicken veggie wrap and a butter tart, so I’ve now eaten one (they’re pretty tasty, and not as much like a pecan-less pecan pie than I thought they’d be) and can officially cross the border into Manitoba when I get there without getting in trouble [g].

The road cuts were unusual and pretty along the highway.
The road cuts were unusual and pretty along the highway.
What most of the drive to Manitowaning looked like.
What most of the drive to Manitowaning looked like.

I haven’t decided how much dawdling I want to do here, vs. heading on west. We’ll have to see how I feel about it in the morning.

September 6: Full fathom five thy father lies

Otherwise known as a national park named after a Shakespeare quote (it’s from The Tempest), which has got to be one of the coolest things ever. Unlike the weather. The whole time I was at the Forbers’, the weather was relatively cool and dry and lovely. Today we’re back to heat and humidity, but not nearly as bad as some of what I’ve been through on this trip, at least.

This morning I drove down to the Bruce Peninsula/ Full Fathom Five National Parks visitor center, which had one of the best national park visitor center museums I’ve seen in a while. Too bad I wasn’t here in June to see the forty different kinds of orchids that grow here, but I did get to learn more about the Niagara Escarpment, which is a huge land formation that runs from Wisconsin way up into Ontario and then back down to New York State. Niagara Falls is a result of that escarpment. Also, the Bruce Trail, the oldest long-distance trail in Canada, follows the top of it from that visitor center to within a few miles of Niagara Falls, almost 600 miles long.

See, Christine?  The Bruce Trail *does* end rather than terminate at Niagara [g].
See, Christine? The Bruce Trail *does* end rather than terminate at Niagara [g].
The skull on the right is a normal-sized beaver.  The one on the left is of the extinct giant beaver.    Makes you wonder how big a tree *he* could have felled.
The skull on the right is a normal-sized beaver. The one on the left is of the extinct giant beaver. Makes you wonder how big a tree *he* could have felled.
I just liked this.  A lot.
I just liked this. A lot.

I also learned that the fisher is the only real predator of porcupines, and that the way they catch them is to bite them in the face and flip them over so that they can eat from the spineless stomach and avoid a mouthful of quills.

The ferry landing at Tobermory where I'll be leaving tomorrow.
The ferry landing at Tobermory where I’ll be leaving tomorrow.

After that I went into the tiny town of Tobermory on the very tip of the peninsula to find lunch – which was basically a choice between fish and chips or fish and chips, but that was okay. Then I went back to the visitor center and walked a trail to the water’s edge, which was lovely. Heavily wooded all the way to the end, and a nice little deck above the water with the obligatory Adirondack/Muskoka chairs (Ross, I was told in the Maritimes that calling them Muskoka chairs is an Ontario-centric thing).

The trail from the visitor center to the water.
The trail from the visitor center to the water.
The view from the end of the trail.
The view from the end of the trail.
I finally let someone take my picture in one of the ubiquitous Adirondack/Muskoka chairs that are in every Canadian national park.
I finally let someone take my picture in one of the ubiquitous Adirondack/Muskoka chairs that are in every Canadian national park.
I've never seen cedar berries like those before.
I’ve never seen cedar berries like those before.

I also went to a place called the Singing Sands, which was a lovely little beach, but the sand didn’t sing today, at least not so that I could hear it.

This was at Singing Sands.  Not where I was expecting to run into Mr. Muir, but I don't know why I was surprised.  That man got around.
This was at Singing Sands. Not where I was expecting to run into Mr. Muir, but I don’t know why I was surprised. That man got around.
The pretty little beach at Singing Sands.
The pretty little beach at Singing Sands.

Then I came back to the campground and kicked back for the evening, and here I am.

Tomorrow is a two-hour ferry ride! And the biggest freshwater island in the world, apparently, with at least one lake on the island that has islands of its own.

September 5: Following the Niagara Escarpment

This morning I left Christine’s, after a wonderful four days of visiting and sightseeing, (and a chance to catch up with practical stuff before heading on, which was also much appreciated). Thank you for a great time, all four Forbers. I hope that you, like the other folks who have been so hospitable towards me on this trip, get a chance to come out to Washington so I can show you around!

There are two ways to get to the top of the Great Lakes in order to continue west. Well, the third one is to duck down into the U.S., which would have been going through territory I covered pretty well on my last Long Trip, so that wasn’t going to happen. First, you can drive due north and go around the east side of Georgian Bay on Lake Huron, or second, you can drive northwest to and up the Bruce Peninsula to the very tip, then take a ferry ride across the mouth of Georgian Bay (a bay that’s probably half the size of Lake Huron proper) to Manitoulin Island, from which there’s a bridge to the north shore of the lake. Having decided to do the latter several days ago, I’d gone online to make reservations for the ferry. They’re for Wednesday afternoon (today’s Monday) to give me plenty of time to explore on the way.

Across the rolling countryside of southern Ontario.
Across the rolling countryside of southern Ontario.
A hint of fall color.  Eep.
A hint of fall color. Eep.

So I drove northwest across southern Ontario, and wound up in the town of Owen Sound, on the southern shore of Huron, at lunchtime. I like Owen Sound. Yes, there’s a body of water called Owen Sound, too, but it’s not very big. The town itself is small, used to be much bigger, and, according to the local historical museum (which was great fun), was once a hotbed of vice and iniquity [g]. Bootlegging and counterfeiting and prostitution, among other things. The museum also has a couple of nifty outdoor exhibits, and is right along a very pretty waterfront walking trail.

Calling William Murdoch (actually, the panel talks about a cop who reminded me very much of Detective Murdoch [g]).
Calling William Murdoch (actually, the panel talks about a cop who reminded me very much of Detective Murdoch [g]).
The museum had a train car and a caboose that they were restoring.  The caboose used to be part of the local McDonalds playplace, which was funny.
The museum had a train car and a caboose that they were restoring. The caboose used to be part of the local McDonalds playplace, which was funny.
Looking down Owen Sound's harbor towards Lake Huron, from the walking trail.
Looking down Owen Sound’s harbor towards Lake Huron, from the walking trail.

I decided, after I left Owen Sound, to drive north along the lakeshore rather than take the direct highway to the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. This turned out to be a good idea, as there were quite a few water views, and the inland part was pretty, too. The drive met back up with the highway about halfway up the peninsula, and I drove on to the Bruce Peninsula and Full Fathom Five National Parks (they appear to be joint the way Sequoia and Kings Canyon Parks in California are). The Bruce Peninsula sort of reminds me of Cape Cod, only without all the crowds, which was really nice, and the national park has a terrific (and reasonably priced, for once) campground. I’m settled in for the evening, knowing that I have all day tomorrow to explore the parks before I catch the ferry on Wednesday.

I think that's part of the Niagara Escarpment, but I wouldn't swear to it.  From the lakeshore drive.
I think that’s part of the Niagara Escarpment, but I wouldn’t swear to it. From the lakeshore drive.
Bruce Peninsula National Park, where I'm camped.
Bruce Peninsula National Park, where I’m camped.

September 4: Of all the days to forget my camera…

It was in the van, and Christine drove us. Anyway, this morning, Christine and I went to the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, which had been on her “I want to get there” list and which, especially after the Turquoise Mountain exhibit in DC, sounded right up my alley. It’s a museum of Arabic art, with a heavy dose of history to help interpret it, and it was one of those things that I’d never have seen on my own because I’d not have known it existed (it only opened a couple of years ago, and it’s not in any of my guidebooks – I checked). The art was gobsmacking. Even the lobby art – which was this huge gold-on-red rug-looking thing that was hanging from the ceiling. It looked very finely stitched, and Christine and I were both admiring it, when the fellow who took our tickets said, go around and look at the backside. It wasn’t stitched. Each one of those thousands of “stitches” was a tiny brass straight pin, and the backside looked like it was furry, there were so many pins so close together. It was incredible. And gorgeous.

Then we went inside to the exhibits, which were full of antique pottery and metalwork and painting and stitchery and all sorts of gorgeous things, including pictures of animals that were like those paintings of clouds or mountains or trees, which, when you look at them closely, have faces in them. These animals were filled with other animals. Huge rugs, and candlesticks that must have had six-inch diameter candles in them, and at the very beginning of the exhibit, a film projection on the wall sort of like the credits at the beginning of the movie Mulan, where the art is being drawn in front of your eyes. Which made it so much more interesting to look at the art itself.

And then there was the history that went right along with it, Iranian and Egyptian and Moorish and all the others, giving the art context. That’s my kind of art museum. The kind that actually tells the stories, and doesn’t just hang the pieces up to admire.

Wow, do I wish I’d had my camera. Go poke around their website, though. Amazing, amazing stuff.  https://www.agakhanmuseum.org/

The rest of the day was part resting and part practicalities — grocery shopping, among other things, since Monday is a federal holiday in Canada (Labour Day, just like the U.S., except that they actually close all their stores down). And chatting, and enjoying the company of all four Forbers, which I did, very much.

September 2-3: Lots of falling water and color and history

September 2nd was a more or less catching up with life day, thank you so much, Christine and family. In the morning we went to one of the best needlework stores I’ve been in for a very long time, and I bought more patterns than I probably should have. I would give my eyeteeth to have a needlework store like that near me. In the afternoon I went and got my hair cut (third time on the trip, and the lady who cut it, bless her heart, fixed the disaster the lady in Quakertown, Pennsylvania created a month ago), and went to a quilt shop Christine had told me about, where I bought some completely unnecessary but adorable quintessentially Canadian fabric. And then they took me out to dinner at a very tasty Italian restaurant (well, the food was delicious, and the service was good – I didn’t try to eat the restaurant [g]).

Yesterday we got up at the crack of dawn to deliver Christine’s oldest son, Colin, to a boathouse down near Niagara for a regatta, then she and I went down to Niagara Falls. One wonderful side effect is that we arrived at the falls at about eight in the morning, before all of the crowds arrived. The first thing we did was do a tour called Journey Behind the Falls, which was exactly what’s on the label. We donned those funky plastic raincoaty/poncho things that keep everything dry except your head (yes, there’s a hood, no, it doesn’t stay up), your arms, and below your knees, and took an elevator down to tunnels that lead to the underside of the Horseshoe (Canadian side) of the falls. Thunderous is the word I’m looking for, I think. A solid wall of water pounding down just feet in front of your face, vibrating up through your feet and in through your skin and everywhere else. I had done the Hurricane Deck on the American side on my last Long Trip 17 years ago, but this was something else entirely.

A view from the balcony at the Journey Behind the Falls. A continual roar.
A view from the balcony at the Journey Behind the Falls. A continual roar.  And trying my best to keep my camera dry.
Looking across the farthest point of the Horseshoe Falls, which looks like the water is falling into a hole to the center of the earth.
Looking across the farthest point of the Horseshoe Falls, which looks like the water is falling into a hole to the center of the earth.
Another view from the rim of the falls.
Another view from the rim of the falls looking upstream.
See the people walking around at the bottom?  That's the Hurricane Deck I walked on 17 years ago.
See the people walking around at the bottom? That’s the Hurricane Deck I walked on 17 years ago.

The Maid of the Mist (American) or the Hornblower Adventure (Canadian) looking as if it's about to commit suicide [g].
The Maid of the Mist (American) or the Hornblower Adventure (Canadian) looking as if it’s about to commit suicide [g].
After that we walked along the promenade (I think it’s got another name, but anyway) for a ways up above the falls to the rapids, and down below the falls to where we could see the American Falls, which apparently only account for 10% of the water (according to at least two sources). The rest of it goes over the Canadian Falls, which explains why the view is so much more impressive on the Canadian side!

By the time we finished at the falls, the crowds were getting thick, and we had other places we wanted to go. We drove downstream towards Lake Ontario (the Niagara River flows north, which confused me no end), and stopped at the southern terminus of the Bruce Trail, which runs along the entire length of the Niagara escarpment (I’ll be passing by the northern terminus in a couple of days). Then we went to the Printery, which is all about the history of newspapers in Canada, among other things, and I got to operate a printing press, which was fun.

Further down the gorge, there's this bend in the river that causes a big whirlpool.  I want (close your eyes, Loralee) some quilt fabric that looks like this.  Isn't the color gorgeous?
Further down the gorge, there’s this bend in the river that causes a big whirlpool. I want (close your eyes, Loralee) some quilt fabric that looks like this. Isn’t the color gorgeous?
This is what the river looks like after it's had a chance to calm down.
This is what the river looks like after it’s had a chance to calm down.
The cast iron printing press that I got to actually print something on.
The cast iron printing press that I got to actually print something on, and the young woman who told us all about it.

Then there was Fort George. Fort George was all about the War of 1812, and played havoc with my so-called knowledge of North American history again. Plus we got to talk with some fascinating docents, see a scene from a play associated with the fort, and learn about the lot of a British soldier’s wife. Only 6% of them were allowed to travel with their husbands (chosen by lottery), and since the soldiers were conscripted for either 7 or 21 years all over the world, with no contact during that time, the wives left behind were considered to be divorced once the men were gone. Legally, from what I gathered. Talk about a hard choice.

A prisoner being hauled back to jail at Fort George.
A prisoner being hauled back to jail at Fort George.
The young woman who discussed the lot of British soldiers' wives with us.
The young woman who discussed the lot of British soldiers’ wives with us.

We were about walked out at that point, and Christine’s parents live nearby, so she called and asked if we could come over for a cup of tea. That turned into a really pleasant couple of hours’ chat plus dinner [g].  Thank you so much, Christine’s parents!

And then we went back to the falls to see the lights. That’s a spectacle and a half. Crowded as all heck, but what they do, once it gets dark, is play spotlights all over the falls in rainbow (and patriotic) colors. Staying that late to see them is not something I’d have done on my own (I don’t like driving in strange places late at night, and we didn’t get back to the house until almost midnight), but I am so glad I got to see that. It was beautiful.

Red falls.
Red falls.
Blue falls.
Blue falls.
Yellow falls.
Yellow falls.
Canadian falls.
Canadian falls.

August 31-September 1: Leaving Ottawa earlier than expected, and across Ontario

Well, part of Ontario, anyway. Ontario is Huge.

So, Fannish Night was a great deal of fun. I met Marna, and Ian, and Lorayne, and Cat, and the six of us (including Elizabeth and me) ate chicken and veggies and fruit and dessert, and watched a really funny movie called Bon Cop, Bad Cop, which is a buddy cop movie with a very Canadian twist. Well, a couple of them. Let’s just say that after six days in Quebec, floundering with my non-existent French, the whole French vs. English thing in the movie made things make a whole lot more sense. And there was hockey, of course. And there was Rick Mercer doing his Don Cherry imitation. It was laugh out loud funny.

When Elizabeth and I went out to the car afterwards, however, it was to find a parking ticket under Merlin’s windshield wiper. Since I’d not seen any no parking signs anywhere, that was a bit disconcerting. Also, when I tried to go online to pay it the next morning, neither the website nor the automated phone thingy would recognize the ticket number, and there was no way to talk to a human that I could find. I suspect it just wasn’t in the system yet, and I will try to remember to check it again before I leave Toronto, if I don’t lose the darned thing in the meantime. Anyway, it was more than a bit frustrating.

Elizabeth had a genealogy project (that’s part of what she does for a living) due yesterday afternoon, so I went ahead and left Ottawa yesterday morning, after stopping at an optician’s office that my friend Christine looked up for me. That was the other thing that went wrong this week. Continuing our theme of being nibbled to death by ducks, I lost my sunglasses the other day. I’m 99% sure they’re still in the van somewhere, but I can’t find them for love or money. They’re magnetic, made to fit my prescription glasses, and my prescription glasses are very small (I wear the absolute smallest adult frame size), so I hadn’t been able to find a clip-on pair to fit them (I find Fitovers very uncomfortable). Well, the ones the optician sold me are just a bit too big, but they work, and now I won’t get a headache driving the 3000 miles (not counting dawdling around) I still have to go to get home. Speaking of which, Merlin turned over 13,000 miles today.

Somehow I ended up on the wrong freeway headed west out of Ottawa, which actually turned out to be a good thing, because the drive was scenic, and it was six of one, half a dozen of the other which way would be faster to go to the provincial park I was aiming for that night, anyway. I like Ontario. I particularly like the fact that I can read the road signs [wry g]. But the scenery is lovely. Lots of rockfaces and woods and rolling hills and lakes. The provincial park was pretty, too, and the campground was very nice.  Somehow, however, the only three photos I managed to take that day were of clouds, and none of them are post-worthy.

This morning, I drove down to the main highway across southern Ontario, and then promptly got off it again to take a drive down along the lakeshore, on an island or a peninsula, the map wasn’t all that clear. Whatever it was, it was called Prince Edward, and it was peaceful and bucolic and pretty, and it was nice to see Lake Ontario.

A pretty little lake on my way down to the main highway yesterday morning.
A pretty little lake on my way down to the main highway yesterday morning.
A view from the top of a very tall bridge going down to Prince Edward County.
A view from the top of a very tall bridge going down to Prince Edward County.
I saw several sets of these quilt blocks decorating various farm buildings in Prince Edward County, which I thought were really cool.
I saw several sets of these quilt blocks decorating various farm buildings in Prince Edward County, which I thought were really cool.
A peekaboo glimpse of Lake Ontario from Prince Edward County.
A peekaboo glimpse of Lake Ontario from Prince Edward County.

Then it was lunchtime, and time to get to and through Toronto before rush hour. I was headed for Bujold listee and needlework friend Christine’s house in Mississauga, a western suburb of Toronto, and, she tells me, the sixth largest city in Canada in its own right.

Toronto has freeways like Crocodile Dundee has a knife. The one I was on had two sets in each direction, each set about six lanes wide. One set is express lanes, and the other has the exits, and they intertwine back and forth every couple of kilometers so you can get to the exits from the express lanes and vice versa. It’s very impressive. And I’m saying that as someone who grew up in Southern California. The traffic could have been much worse than it was, too.

I found Christine’s house without any trouble, and I’ll be here for several nights before I head north, and then on west again. We’re going to go to Niagara Falls among other things while I’m here, and it ought to be interesting!

August 29-30: Bilingual road signs again! Yay! And yet another really cool museum.

So, yesterday I drove back down to the main highway, where I crossed it and went to the Manoir Papineau National Historic Site. My friend Christine had recommended that I go here. At least I think this is where she meant. There’s also a big fancy hotel nearby, but I’ve seen more than my share of big fancy hotels (not to stay in, mind, just to look at) for a while, and the historic site looked interesting, so I decided this was what she’d wanted me to see.

And I’m glad I stopped. Another bit of Canadian history wrapped nicely in an elegant 19th century house that reminded me a lot of Washington Irving’s Sunnyside – minus the vines, thank goodness. Mostly, I suspect, because of the riverside frontage, but still. Anyway. Louis-Joseph Papineau was a mover and shaker in 19th century Canadian politics, who got himself in trouble in the 1830s for helping to ringlead a group that wanted to break away from England. He ended up in exile for a number of years in the U.S. and France, and then got pardoned or something, came back, and built this pretty house on the Ottawa River. It was very elegant so that his visitors would be impressed, and the tour guide told stories about how they tried to keep it warm in Quebec winters, and how Papineau’s wife was not impressed with being so far away (two days of steamboat trip) from Montreal, and so forth and so on. Unfortunately they wouldn’t let me take photos inside, though.

A three-hundred-year-old oak tree in front of the Papineau house.  Apparently it was a favorite tree of M. Papineau.
A three-hundred-year-old oak tree in front of the Papineau house. Apparently it was a favorite tree of M. Papineau, which is why they’ve got it propped up, etc., to keep it from dying.
M. Papineau's pretty  house.
M. Papineau’s pretty house.

After that it was on to Ottawa, where I ended up having to call Elizabeth because the street I thought was the right one didn’t go through to where I needed it to. But eventually I got there, and we had a good conversation, then went out to go buy her a new rotary cutter (she’s a beginning quilter!) and out to dinner at a very nice café. Then we came back and watched the Branagh version of Much Ado About Nothing, which turns out to be a favorite film for both of us [g].

I’ll be here at her place until Thursday, when I head for Toronto.

This morning I went to the Canadian History Museum. And I found it without having to backtrack once! Unfortunately, their main exhibit is being redone and won’t be open again until next year, but the other exhibits really made up for it. They had a whole floor devoted to the First Nations of Canada, which was fascinating. It was odd to see west coast things like totem poles here [g], but the whole exhibit was enormous and well done.

An interesting piece of public art in downtown Ottawa.
An interesting piece of public art in downtown Ottawa.
The largest indoor collection of totem poles in North America.
The largest indoor collection of totem poles in North America.
An interesting piece of art in the totem pole room.
An interesting piece of art in the totem pole room.
Louis Riel's jacket.  I've known who he was for a long time, but not that much about him.  He's sort of the Canadian version of Chief Leschi at home in Puyallup, only on a much larger scale.
Louis Riel’s jacket. I’ve known who he was for a long time, but not that much about him. He’s sort of the Canadian version of Chief Leschi at home in Puyallup, only on a much larger scale.
Comparative drawings of prehistoric bison and modern ones.
Comparative drawings of prehistoric bison and modern ones.  Not to scale (the prehistoric one was much bigger than the modern one).
A glass replica of a Morning Star (aka Lone Star if you're from Texas) quilt, although the exhibit persisted in calling it a blanket [wry g].
A glass replica of a Morning Star (aka Lone Star if you’re from Texas) quilt, although the exhibit persisted in calling it a blanket [wry g].
A view of government buildings, including Parliament, from the terrace of the museum.
A view of government buildings, including Parliament, from the terrace of the museum.
Part of the First Nations exhibit.
Part of the First Nations exhibit.
A quilt!  A photo of this quilt was once on a Canadian postage stamp (the museum has a nifty stamp room that I enjoyed very much).
A quilt! A photo of this quilt was once on a Canadian postage stamp (the museum has a nifty stamp room that I enjoyed very much).

Then there were the three temporary exhibits. One of them was about Napoleon Bonaparte (of all people, my fingers keep typing), mostly relating to his time in Paris. The second one was about the gold rush in British Columbia in the early 1850s, right after the California gold rush. I’d known a little about it, having run across it in my Okanogan Country research for Sojourn and Reunion (one of the trails to the Cariboo, which is what the gold country in BC was called, went through the Okanogan), but not nearly as much as I do now. I want to go up there and explore it one of these days now [g]. The third temporary exhibit was called Horse Power. A man in Montreal collected carriages and sleighs most of his life, and donated them. It was a seriously impressive collection, and fun to stroll through.

Bust of a young Napoleon.
Bust of a young Napoleon.
Another familiar story.  This is the crest of the Beaver, the first Mosquito Fleet boat in the Puget Sound/Strait of Georgia waters, which I learned about while I was researching my upcoming third Tale of the Unearthly Northwest, Voyage.
Another familiar story. This is the crest of the Beaver, the first Mosquito Fleet boat in the Puget Sound/Strait of Georgia waters, which I learned about while I was researching my upcoming third Tale of the Unearthly Northwest, Voyage.
That second from the top rifle is a similar model to the one Charley carried in Repeating History.
That second from the top rifle is a similar model to the one Charley carried in Repeating History.
Charley would have been envious of this smart little Quebec-made cutter.
Charley would have been envious of this smart little Quebec-made cutter.
The Canadian History Museum building looks a *lot* like the Museum of the American Indian in DC, all curvy, fluid lines.  This is the entrance.
The Canadian History Museum building looks a *lot* like the Museum of the American Indian in DC, all curvy, fluid lines. This is the entrance.

By that point I was pretty much done for the day. Tonight Elizabeth and I are going over to the house of Marna and her family. Marna’s another listee, and I think a couple of her family members are, too. We’re having something called fannish night, which is apparently a regular occurrence here [g]. I’m looking forward to that very much.

Then tomorrow I’m going to run a couple of errands, and maybe hit another museum. I’ve heard wonderful things about the War Museum, even if the subject matter’s not exactly my cup of tea.

August 27 and 28: Leaving Quebec, with a stop in Montreal and a trip to the hills

This morning I got up and out and made it out of the parking garage and Quebec City without any mishaps. Of course, the day I decided to leave, the weather turned off nice and dry and sunny and cooler, but oh, well.

I didn’t take a lot of photos. Basically what I did was drive down to Montreal, although I did get off the freeway for a little bit just to explore on some backroads. This did not turn out to be the brightest move on my part. Getting out of the tourist areas in Quebec has been problematic for me at best, and it was a challenge to make my way back to the highway, especially after I apparently got in the way of a fellow who backs around that particular corner every day and why didn’t I know that? (at least that’s what I think he was conveying with his gestures when I beeped politely at him because I was afraid he was going to hit me)

I have *never* seen a road sign quite like this one.  I didn't know signs could have accidents.
I have *never* seen a road sign quite like this one. I didn’t know signs could have accidents.

 

A pretty church in the little town where the guy almost backed into me.
A pretty church in the little town where the guy almost backed into me.

I spent the night in Montreal, and if you read my FB account, you’ll know I was dithering about whether to spend the next day there or to go up to the Laurentian mountains. By the time I went to bed I’d about decided to go to the botanic gardens and a fur-trading historic site in Montreal, then head on to Ottawa, but when I woke up in the morning, I changed my mind and decided to go up to the Laurentians.

Which turned out to be a very good idea. The Laurentians aren’t really mountains – as I’ve said too many times, I’m a mountain snob – but what they really reminded me of, in a very pleasant way, were the Adirondacks in upstate New York, which makes sense, as I don’t think they’re more than 150 miles north of the Adirondacks. Montreal itself is a lot closer to the U.S. border than I’d realized, only about 60 miles. I sorta did a doubletake when I turned on the radio in Montreal and found a station that was not only in English, but was doing weather reports in Fahrenheit [g].

Anyway, the Laurentians were really lovely, even when I noticed some of the leaves just starting to turn. Already! And it’s not even September! Rolling hills just covered with heavy woodlands, and rivers and lakes and a ski area (at Mont Tremblant) that really reminded me of Sun Valley, Idaho, or Jackson, Wyoming.

I found a campground in the little town of Brebaux, just south of Mont Tremblant, and I’m camped on a pretty lakeshore. The town has one of those “no franchises here, sir!” fast food joints, and I ate a smoked meat sandwich there, which sort of reminded me of pastrami, with lots of mustard. It was good. The town also has a really pretty waterfall right under the main road.

One of several ski areas in the Laurentians.  Looks like the black diamond runs are *really* short.
One of several ski areas in the Laurentians. Looks like the black diamond runs are *really* short.
A lake with an odd-shaped hill in the Lauentians.
A lake with an odd-shaped hill in the Lauentians.
The waterfall in Brebaux.  It looks much flatter than it really is from that angle.
The waterfall in Brebaux. It looks much flatter than it really is from that angle.
The view from my campsite.
The view from my campsite.

Tomorrow I’m off to Ottawa, and Elizabeth, who is yet another listee friend.  I’m looking forward to meeting her in person.

August 26: The lower part of Old Town, and the Musee de Civilization is amazing

So. They call the stairs that run from the upper part of Old Town to the lower part the Breakneck Stairs, and when they’re wet, as they were this morning, yeah, the name fits. But I was careful, and I made it to the bottom just fine. All almost 300 steps of them, or so I’m told (and, no, I didn’t have to climb back to the top, thank goodness).

Anyway, I knew there was another whole part of Old Town, but I don’t think I’d realized just how much more was down there. I’d gone down there because of a history museum (which turned out to be much more), but there’s a whole other warren of streets and shops and stuff (and a cruise ship dock, of all things).

The weather was still awful, but I was headed for a – hopefully air conditioned – museum, so I grinned and bore it.

The Musee de Civilization is, at least in part, a museum about Quebec-the-province’s history, so the local equivalent to a state history museum like the ones I’d visited in Kansas, Kentucky, and Maine. It was extremely well done, and since before I arrived here I knew next to nothing about how Quebec came to be Quebec (including the name, which is from an Indian term meaning where the waters narrow – the waters in question being the St. Lawrence, which narrows appreciably at Quebec City), I found it enthralling.

But that wasn’t all they had to show at the Musee de Civilization. There was a temporary exhibit about Australian Aboriginal art, which was fascinating (and completely unexpected by me), and an another temporary exhibit about cats and dogs, including a virtual reality thingy where you could see what they think it’s like to be a cat or a dog. That was hysterical, actually, esp. the part where the mouse went into the garbage can, the cat went in after it, and the garbage can lid fell on the cat, completely freaking him out [g].  And yet another temporary exhibit about Nanotech, which, for some reason, had a lot of SF stuff in it [g].

But the best part of all was the huge exhibit on Quebec’s First Nations (the Canadian equvalent, so far as I can tell, for Indian tribe). Artifacts were just the beginning. It was the stories that were the best part (and the part that’s really impossible to photograph). And these wonderful enormous screens in the background running this incredible film of Quebec’s natural world and how its original inhabitants relate to it. I could have watched that film for hours, and I did sit and watch it for a long time. It was moving, the same way I found the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in upstate New York moving when I was there on my last Long Trip seventeen years ago. I wish they’d had DVDs of that film for sale in the gift shop, but they didn’t.

Anyway, that’s how I spent most of today, and after I left (I ate lunch in the museum’s café – you know you’re in a place that values food when even the museum café has great food), I wandered through the lower Old Town towards the funicular.

The funicular is why I didn’t have to climb all those stairs back up. I’m not normally big on that sort of manmade height, but even though the weather had dried out a bit (and warmed up, but drier was better) while I was in the museum, I put aside my nerves and rode it back up to Dufferin Terrace.

The last thing I did today was go inside Chateau Frontenac. It’s got quite the lobby, but my favorite thing was a sculpture that you can see below. And then I stopped at a little grocery store for supper fixings, and realized about three blocks after I left it that I’d left my camera there. So I ran back, got it (thank goodness), and came back to the hostel for one more night. And here I am.

I have a motel reservation for tomorrow night just outside of Montreal. I still haven’t decided if I’m going to spend much time there. I’m sort of leaning against it right now, because I still have Toronto and Ottawa to go before I head across western Ontario (more people have tried to warn me against western Ontario in the last couple of weeks, for some reason) to the prairies.

At the bottom of all those stairs.
At the bottom of all those stairs.
An art installation on the way to the Musee de Civilization.
An art installation on the way to the Musee de Civilization.
A fou -foot tall Australian Aboriginal mask.
A four -foot tall Australian Aboriginal mask.
When they dug the foundation for the museum, they found the remains of some boats from the 18th century.  This is part of one of them. And it's blue because I was messing with my whiteness thingy on the camera, and this is what happened [wry g].
When they dug the foundation for the museum, they found the remains of some boats from the 18th century. This is part of one of them. And it’s blue because I was messing with my whiteness thingy on the camera, and this is what happened [wry g].
A full-sized set of Iron Man armor was part of the Nanotech exhibit.
A full-sized set of Iron Man armor was part of the Nanotech exhibit.
Part of a row of models of Quebec First Nations housing.
Part of a row of models of Quebec First Nations housing.
Those are made of thousands of beads, and they're meant to represent differing amounts of blood, and different percentages of "Indian-ness."
Those are made of thousands of beads, and they’re meant to represent differing amounts of blood, and different percentages of “Indian-ness.”
This was a funny little fountain I saw in a little nook in Lower Old Town.  Still blue because I was still figuring out how to get my camera settings back where they should be.
This was a funny little fountain I saw in a little nook in Lower Old Town. Still blue because I was still figuring out how to get my camera settings back where they should be.
A huge mural in Lower Old Town.  There's a sign (that I also took a photo of) that points out all of the historical figures and buildings in it by name.
A huge mural in Lower Old Town. There’s a sign (that I also took a photo of) that points out all of the historical figures and buildings in it by name.
See the funicular in the background?
See the funicular in the background?
The view from about halfway up on the funicular.
The view from about halfway up on the funicular.
This lady was in the lobby of the Chateau Frontenac.  I love her.
This lady was in the lobby of the Chateau Frontenac. I love her.

August 25: Dear godlings, the humidity! And Abraham Martin’s son.

I woke up to more than 100% humidity this morning.  Not all that hot, maybe 80dF by afternoon, but that wasn’t the point. I know more than 100% isn’t physically possible, but trust me, I think it was more like 142%. It did rain a bit, but mostly it was just air so thick you had to drink it. I sweated far more than I did in DC, and that’s saying something, especially since sweating in weather that wet does nothing but soak your clothing and drip into your eyes, making them burn.

Dear godlings. Seriously.

I went to the parking garage to look for my umbrella (no way could I actually put my raincoat on in this – it would be like wrapping myself in saran wrap or something), but I couldn’t find it, so I put my camera in a plastic bag and resigned myself to getting soaked. But by the time I came back out of the parking garage, the rain had stopped.

I had decided that today was the day I’d go to the Citadel and the Plains of Abraham, where British General Wolfe and co. fought French General Montcalm and co. to decide the fate of North America. Well, sorta. Or part of it. Or something. Anyway, I wound up in the Battlefields Park Museum (the official name of the Plains of Abraham is Battlefields Park nowadays – back about 100 years ago they turned the whole thing into a big, gorgeous city park). The museum about the battle was very interesting, but the bus tour through the park (the rain had begun to come down again, so a dry, air-conditioned bus was just the ticket) was what was worth the price of admission.

It was driven (he called it the Devil’s Chariot) and conducted by a young man playing the part of one of Abraham Martin’s sons (Abraham Martin was a local landowner the field was named after back in the 18th century), in full costume, and, yes, he was informative and interesting to listen to, but he was also fall out of your chair hilarious. His tongue was so far over in his cheek I thought it was going to come out of his ear. I really do wish I’d asked if I could take his photo, but I didn’t. That bus tour was one of the top five best things I’ve done on this entire trip so far. Seriously. I haven’t laughed so hard and learned so much simultaneously in my life before, I don’t think. If you ever get to Quebec City, go to the Battlefields Park Museum and ride Abraham’s Bus. It was so worth it.

After I caught my breath from laughing, and the rain stopped again, I walked over to the Citadel. Apparently it’s in dire need of reconstruction work or something, though, because the labyrinth to actually get through the equipment and stuff was quite the to-do. I did finally make it to the gate, however, and took a photo of one of the guards, but then the skies opened up again, and I was already so sweaty that I looked like I’d just taken a shower fully dressed, that I decided, you know, I’d seen the one at Halifax and I needed to call it a day.

Maybe tomorrow. Or maybe not. I’ve got another museum I really want to see tomorrow.

Along the wall between the parking garage and the  Citadel.
Along the wall between the parking garage and the Citadel.
Another view of the wall.
Another view of the wall.
I'd never seen a NW Territories license plate before, or a license plate shaped like a bear, for that matter.  This Transit Connect was just down the row from Merlin the Transit Connect in the parking garage.
I’d never seen a NW Territories license plate before, or a license plate shaped like a bear, for that matter. This Transit Connect was just down the row from Merlin the Transit Connect in the parking garage.
One of the gates in the wall.  There's a city street going through there.
One of the gates in the wall. There’s a city street going through there.
Battlefields Park.  This is roughly where the battle took place.
Battlefields Park. This is roughly where the battle took place.
One of the Martello Towers at Battlefields Park.
One of the Martello Towers at Battlefields Park.
Standing guard at the Citadel.
Standing guard at the Citadel.
This carving looks like celery to me!
This carving looks like celery to me!  Even though I know it’s supposed to be acanthus or something.