2011 August – Eastern Canada Trip

Day 1 – Arrive into Burlington, CT:

We flew into Burlington, VT from where there are several ways to enter the Canadian border – either you can go up to Montreal and then west to Ottawa or drive west along the NY-Canada border to the other entry point, which is what we chose. One of the highlights of this trip was the ferry ride from Burlington to the state of New York, where we could take our car on the ferry too, across Lake Champlain.

The drive was uneventful (save us getting pulled over for speeding in NY ☹ ) …but it does tend to get a little monotonous as the bulk of the drive happens on State Highways and it was getting dark, so you have to watch out for deer (and the cops of course!).

Day 2 – Ottawa, Canada:

Most of our day in Ottawa was spent with our cousins. Luckily it happened to be the Indian Festival of Rakhi that day, so we just stayed put at home and celebrated the festival. The drive to Toronto was 4 hours long but great, it was so worth it. The scenery along the way is spectacular, especially compared to Texas, where we hail from. Today was dedicated to family gatherings and driving from one family home to the other.

Day 3 – Niagara Falls:

Back on the road again with our sightseeing … early in the morning we headed to Niagara. Since we lived in the Pittsburgh area several years back, we have seen the falls umpteen number of times, especially from the US side – but this was the first time we approached them from the Canadian side. Even though it was misty and windy that day, we still managed to get several beautiful shots of the awesomeness of the falls. Canadian side is the way to see the falls – you get the full uninterrupted view of the Horseshoe Falls.
We could not get on the Maid of the Mist which takes you really up-close to the falls in a boat, because of the mist and the windiness. (Unfortunately this was also the day when the Japanese student fell into the falls when she leaned over too far). Another cool item there is the Cave of the Winds, wherein you can walk down several steps and take the journey behind the falls.
One of the highly recommended drives there is Niagara by the Lake, when you can take a short stroll, enjoy the boutique shopping or eat at quaint little restaurants, alongside where the Niagara originates.
We went to Mississauga only for dinner… didn’t get a chance to hang out there much but it seemed like a big beautiful metropolitan city.

Day 4 – Drive to Ottawa via Toronto:

One of the famous attractions in Toronto is the CN Towers .. we had walked quite a bit to see and ultimately climb them, but unfortunately the line was so long that we would have to wait for 3 hours to get up there. We were really interested in the Edge Walk, where you can hang from the sides of the tower, but for the lack-of-time reason we had to forego that and ended up just hanging around and shopping in the streets/markets. The park and Harbor by the Lake is quite scenic there and definitely worth a visit/stroll. There are also ferry tours available there to take you sightseeing but we didn’t take those.

Ottawa is quite beautiful in it’s own accord. In the evening we took a trip to the Parliament there. It sounds quite unromantic, but the buildings and the parks close by were quite scenic. There was a free Light and Sound Show that was being conducted at 9 Pm at night but it didn’t fit into our schedule. However the preparations and the rehearsals looked awesome – wish we could have stayed. Parking was a major hassle there as we drove from street to street looking for somewhere to park … nevertheless we got a chance to soak in the beauty of the area – could even see Quebec on the other side of river.

Day 4 – Drive to Quebec City via Montreal:

We left Ottawa early in the morning towards Quebec. After much debate, we just decided to drive through Montreal with a quick stop, as opposed to spending a few hours there. We chose L’Auberge, St Joseph’s Church as our stopping point and didn’t regret it a bit. The church is great looking, offers great views of the city (after you take the multitude of steps to the top) and is replete with beautiful sculptures as depicted in our pictures here.

The drive into Quebec was scenic as we expected – since we were entering the French Country. Being in Quebec City gives you a sense of being in France… French is widely spoken here – even the street signs are in French. Add to that the tons of pastry and little boutique shops all over and you have a Mini-France on hand. For our hotel we decided to stay in the old part of the city, fondly known as Vieux Quebec, which is more French and touristy and in the heart of all the action. All restaurants, scenic spots, horse driven carriages, beautiful fountains can be enjoyed on foot. We were brave enough to even venture into the northern part of the city, some 3 miles from our hotel, on foot, late at night to catch the Cirque du Soleil, which was doing a free performance there for the week.

From the hotel we had awesome views of the river and the whole city. As we strolled into the Old part of the city, we got a chance to check out (and get impressed by) Chateau De Frontenac – the oldest (and costliest!!) hotel in town. Set in old French style, it’s a visual treat! Enjoy the walk around the hotel where boutique shops and small eateries are abound plenty!

Day 5 – Marin Park:

Early next morning we set off in our rental car to on a drive to the Segauenay River area for some Whale Watching and other activities. The drive is SPECTACULAR!! There are several scenic lookouts on the way that you can stop by and take in the river flowing alongside, the pines and conifers, the mountains, the wildflowers and just the overall beauty! Once in the Segauenay River Marin Park area, we quickly hopped aboard a large ferry and set off to watch some whales. We didn’t have to go too far because the within a ride of 15 minutes into the river delta region, the handsome creatures were already swimming alongside our boat. In fact, there were quite a few brave kayakers in the river that got an even better up-close view of the giant mammals. There was plenty of food and drinks available to buy on the ferry to tide you over the 3-4 hour long trip.
On our way back from the river area, we took a slight detour to see the Montemorency Falls that are only 20 minutes from the main city. As had been happening with us throughout the trip (since we cramp so much in such little time), the Visitors Center had closed by the time we got to the falls. But no regrets – there were still several vantage points available from where we could see them afar. And that’s the thing about the falls – you’ve seen one, you’ve seen all, unless it is Niagara or Angel or Iguaçu Falls!

Day 6 – Quebec City:

For a change we decided not to drive around too much today and stay around in our hotel area (especially since the parking was costing $39 at the hotel – we wanted to get our money’s worth by leaving the car in the garage) ☺. Bulk of the day was spent walking around at the Battlefields Park, which was literally a hop, skip and jump from the hotel. There is the famous Citadel there, where we didn’t take the guided tour of the insides, albeit walked around on the ledge of the completely sunken fort that is not visible from outside.
Brunch at our hotel Revolving Restaurant was a treat to all of us as we ensured that we stayed for the complete hour that it takes to revolve once on its axis to give a phenomenal view of the city, the buildings, the forts, the parks, the river – the overall beauty!

The evening was once again reserved for walking around in Vieux Quebec, trying various foods (we had Spanish for dinner in an authentic restaurant, with Sangria and Paella et. al.) and walking around the lively French Quarters of Quebec City.

Day 7 – Depart Quebec City:

As all god things must come to an end, so did our visit to Quebec City. Our flight from Burlington, VT was in the afternoon so we had to leave Quebec City around 10 AM. We still managed to squeeze in some time to wander around Abraham Park (right next to the hotel) and we are glad we did – it had some of the most beautiful flowers that we have come across in Canada. The whole park seems straight out of a fairytale with its small castle like surrounding buildings and the armory displayed at various spots.
The drive back to Vermont/New York was sans any major event – however, we did miss our flight back to Texas from Vermont because of some cancelations. While the adults were thrilled at the prospect of some more sightseeing, our daughter had had enough of the car and was not happy at all! So our plans of driving to Boston (4 hours away) for the night or to Maine were dashed and we ended up spending the rest of the day holed away in a cheap motel in New York State munching away on some pizza.

5 Favorite things about the Canada:

  1. Quebec City
  2. Niagara Falls
  3. Marin Park in Quebec – HUGE river and Whale Watching
  4. Chateau de Frontenace – next time I am staying there!!! .. with our without family 🙂
  5. Any random drive anywhere

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