Please click on the image(s) to see a larger display. It is the route we followed. Outbound on the northern route, homebound on the southern route.
The Chocolate Garden and the University of Michigan Logo
Navigation: When viewing a larger photograph image, click on the photograph pointer at the far right or left in the middle to advance or return. The final photograph has no additional advancing icon, and an “X” at the top right to exit the display.
Of the 684 photographs and videos we took on this journey, we are sharing 207 with you.
Day 1: Monday, September 17, 2018. New Berlin, Wisconsin to Ann Arbor, Michigan
We planned on the 345 miles (555 kilometers) portion taking 5 hours and 15 minutes without stopping, which of course, we need a rest, even for a bathroom break. We left at 8:15 am and arrived at 3:30 pm after passing through Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. We began in the central time zone and ended in the eastern time zone, gaining one hour.
Near lunchtime, several large billboards advertising The Chocolate Garden in Coloma, Michigan, attracted us. Being on vacation, we took a mile detour off the interstate to what looked like a large home in the middle of a peach tree orchid. The “home” turned out to be a retail store producing small chocolate treats manufactured upstairs and sales on the ground floor. The owner had been in business for 20 years and was closing at the end of the month to rest, relax, and decide on the next steps. Aside from a pair of chocolate truffles, Linda had a cup of chocolate mocha, and I had a cup of pure chocolate. To say they were both rich and tasty is an understatement. The detour to break up the journey was worthwhile.
The Marriott Hotel group consists of thirty assorted brands to satisfy all budgets, for ultra-wealthy executives to ordinary retirees like us. Our hotel in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was the affordable Fairfield Inn. It is located next to the Courtyard, a bit more upscale for Marriott. Our hotel location consisted of a dozen competing hotels in close walking proximity. We dined at a nearby upscale Sheraton, another member of the Marriott group. We asked our front desk for restaurant recommendations, and they provided us with a map listing about fifty restaurants known as the “Main Road” area. So why so many hotels and restaurants? Ann Arbor is home to the University of Michigan, the Wolverines, with 46,000 students. There is a business need to house families during the many college activities.
Breakfast is included in the package, and for me it was a unique experience. I traveled on business for decades, checked into a hotel, arrived early for breakfast, ate rapidly, and set out quickly to a client. It was a standard operating procedure. Now being with Linda and unrushed felt so different. My last trip to Ann Arbor in October 2016 was not a pleasant experience.
The co-owner of Stellium (a company I represented at the time) had asked me to meet, stay in a top-of-the-line Marriott, and attend a strategy session. My business was not booming at the time, so rather than conveniently flying to save money, I drove. My belief was to be at least a half-day meeting. It turned out to be a 45-minute session over breakfast. To say the gall of expecting to drive for 12 hours and pay to stay in a luxury hotel enraged me, all for 45 minutes that we could have managed through a conference call. It was more than I could comprehend.
The journey from home to Ann Arbor was quite hair-raising. As is typical in the summer months, we face long stretches of road construction and reduced lanes. In seventy-mile-an-hour (113 km/hr.) speed zones, you can expect to be motoring at 15 mph or 80 mph, as the road opens, and the stream of motorists drives like crazy, making up for the lost time. At spells, it felt like we were going across numerous railway lines as the car’s suspension was pounded due to uneven road surfaces while we dodged potholes. At other times, the road surface emitted loud noises from the grooves, so much so that Linda played her podcasts at maximum volume so that we could hear above the din of the road.
During my early business days when I worked with The Oliver Wight Companies, the late Ollie Wight had a saying, “Show me a man with a watch, and I’ll show you a man who can tell the time. Show me a man with two watches, and he will not be so sure.” Before leaving home, I set the GPS in the car and printed maps using Google Maps. Linda and I visited the AAA (American Automobile Association) for regional maps. In addition, while on the journey, Linda used her iPhone maps to supply directions. The resources were not consistent.
While driving on the ring road around Chicago, my car’s GPS wanted me to exit at one point. I had driven this road frequently, knew the GPS was wrong, and waited for the “recalculating” message as we stayed our course. In fairness, with all the road construction and traffic congestion, the GPS recommends an alternate route to speed up the time to the ultimate destination.
Our membership of the Costco Wholesale club entitles us to fill up with discounted gasoline prices and a 4% cashback at year-end. There was a Costco within a mile of our hotel.
Left to right, top to bottom: rainbow over Niagara Falls; Spectators getting wet in the spray close to the falls; 3 photographs of Queen Victoria Place; local bird enjoying the spectators; White Water Walk tunnel access; White Water Walk boardwalk alongside the rapids; Lake Sturgeon Fish.
Horseshoe Falls, a boatload of spectators getting soaked, with Bridal Veil alongside the US falls.
The might of the rapids.
Linda along the White-Water Walk viewing the rapids.
Day 2: Tuesday, September 18, 2018. Ann Arbor, Michigan to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada.
The hour-long drive from Ann Arbor to Detroit, Michigan, to cross the border to Windsor, Ontario in Canada was more of the same. Road construction with speeds ranging from a near standstill to 80 MPH. On the US side, we paid a $5 toll to use the bridge crossing into Canada. Canadian customs were more than pleasant but concerned that being Americans, we were loaded with guns, ammunition, and mace! We were not.
Windsor looked no different from any US city with familiar fast-food restaurants and retail stores. Driving was another story. The interstates were three-lane wide, with sections being upgraded or maintained. One significant difference was converting from the archaic imperial system of miles used in the US to the modern metric system of Canada in kilometers. The speed limits were lower at one hundred kilometers per hour, equivalent to 62 MPH, versus the US 70.
The car’s GPS did an admirable job of showing speed limits in MPH, so no conversions were needed or trying to read the tiny km/h writing on the car’s speedometer. The Canadians take speed limits seriously. They post warnings of fines if imposed if you drive over the speed limit and the number of demerits points you will incur. At 50% over the speed limit, or 150 km/h, your car is impounded and driving privileges revoked. However, we did see a few motorists testing the limits. Not us, though.
Driving toward Niagara, taking another 4 hours, was much like going through Nebraska in the US. Farmland for miles on end. Canadian roads were in better condition, smoother, quieter, and had great driving experience, with the regulation to drive slower. On the 3-lane highways, we did encounter numerous trucks occupying both the slow and center lanes. It is Canadian law.
We made a stop around lunchtime. Linda used her trusty iPhone to find a Starbucks. It was in a large shopping mall that provided an opportunity to stroll and stretch our legs after a long drive. The Starbucks was in the food court, along with a wide variety of available cuisine.
It was not the first time we had been to Niagara. When we arrived in the US 31 years earlier, we decided to visit our family, the Fourie’s in Toronto. In December 1987, we drove and visited the falls. We were too ignorant to know that the middle of winter is not the time to drive in North America. We only saw the US side of the falls. We recall paths and guardrails iced up and naturally freezing cold. This time our experience was quite different.
We checked into La Papillion bed-and-breakfast in Niagara-on-the Lake, Ontario, and headed off to see the sights at the falls. Now, in Canada, we saw the falls from the other side of the river. There are three falls: the US Falls, the small Bridal Veil alongside this fall, and the main Horseshoe Fall. Aside from viewing the majesty of the falls, there is much to see.
We visited the White-Water Walk requiring an elevator ride, down thirty-eight meters/125 feet, to walk along the rapids. This boardwalk allows spectators to get up close and personal with the raging waters.
The videos and photographs beg many questions.
Why is the water green?
It is due to the river’s erosive power. An estimated sixty tons of dissolved minerals are swept over Niagara Falls every minute. The color comes from the dissolved salts and “rock flour” (very finely ground rock) picked up primarily from the limestone bed but also the shale and sandstone under the cap at the falls.
Why is the water so foamy?
The brown foam below Niagara Falls and along the rapids is a natural result of tons of water plummeting into the depths below. It is not dangerous. The brown color is clay, which contains suspended particles of decayed vegetative matter. It is from the shallow eastern basin of Lake Erie to the south.
How does the Niagara River support birding?
The Niagara River is a critical winter-feeding area for birds. The river’s swift current keeps it ice-free, assuring birds have access to water when many other waterways are frozen over. The fast-moving waters carry a steady supply of small fish, such as alewives and shiners, which make up an essential part of bird diets.
Lake Sturgeon Fish.
Lake Sturgeon is a prehistoric fish dating back 135 million years. Canada’s largest freshwater fish is over 6½ feet (2 meters) and weighs up to three hundred pounds (136 kilograms). A cold-water species that live 55 to 80 years. Until the mid-1800s, Lake Sturgeon was considered a nuisance species to be discarded, dried, burned as firewood, or used as fertilizer. This resulted in over-fishing, which, combined with pollution and destruction of spawning habitat, caused the population to crash. In later years, the value of their flesh and caviar and skin for leather was recognized. Today, Lake Sturgeon is protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act.
We enjoyed a delightful dinner at a quintessentially British-style restaurant, Queen Victoria Place, where the birds enjoyed the ambiance as they walked the restaurant floor and fly between patrons.
Bed and Breakfast in the quaint town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is a private home owned by an elderly couple who converted each of the three bedrooms into a self-contained bed with a bathroom. We stayed in The Admiral room. Ours consisted of a large comfortable double bed and a tiny bathroom with a shower just big enough to turn around in and a toilet sandwiched between the shower tub and wall.
L to R: Trius Winery and Restaurant; vineyards; rows of wines; Sparkling Wine sword; Wayne Gretzky sign; Wine in temperature and humidity-controlled storage; Icewine.
Day 3: Wednesday, September 19, 2018. Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario to Mississauga, Ontario
The husband-and-wife team of our bed and breakfast, Le Papillon, are Patrice and Louis. Louis is retired but works as a guide at the nearby Trius Winery and Restaurant. The breakfast prepared by the couple was the treat of the stay. Here we met the two other couples—a couple from central Canada, the other from Switzerland. The conversation was lively, with each of us exchanging our backgrounds and travel experiences.
Sightseeing in this community was breathtakingly beautiful. We were not aware that Canada is famous for its wines grown in the Niagara-on-the-Lake region. Sadly, exporting wines to the US is impossible due to USA restrictions, so their wines are not well known or easily available in America. Niagara-on-the-Lake was settled in the 1700s, with several homes, reflecting dates built in the 1800s. We did some wine, fruit, and chocolate shopping at the Trius Winery and Restaurant to take as gifts to Marilyn and Philip Fourie in Toronto later in the day. It would turn out to be a 90-minute drive.
I was not necessarily too enthusiastic about attending the hour-long wine tour and sampling four wines before 11:00 am. Dan, a retired schoolteacher, did an outstanding job of explaining the history of winemaking, where the Canadians sourced their vines and walked and talked us through the complete winemaking process.
Usage of the term “Champagne” is forbidden as it is legally restricted to wines from the Champagne region of France. Dan’s explanation of Icewine was fascinating, and they tasted even better. Icewine is a dessert wine produced from frozen grapes while still on the vine. The sugars do not freeze, but the water content does, allowing a more concentrated grape juice to develop. It is sold in tall and narrow 375 ml bottles, costing between $60 and $100 per bottle. I can attest to the fact that it is a unique drinking experience. We were treated to Icewine again while visiting Tony and Fiona Goddard in Rochester, NY, a few days later.
Wayne Douglas Gretzky was a Canadian professional ice hockey player from 1979 to 1999 and later head coach. Aside from being Canada’s greatest ice hockey player, he is also a successful businessperson. Among other ventures, he is the owner of Wayne Gretzky’s restaurant in Toronto and has a stake in the vineyards that we toured—but I do not know the finer details. Wayne Gretzky Estates is Niagara’s only winery and distillery. Wayne’s estate (at #1219) and Trius (#1249) are located on Niagara Stone Road.
That afternoon we headed to Phillip and Marilyn Fourie, family members we had not seen in many years since they visited us for Robyn and Darin’s wedding in 2001. Phillip is more than a gourmet cook and an accomplished artist, so we were entertained with many great meals.
To clarify a point. Phillip and Marilyn live in Mississauga, just outside Toronto. I frequently write about them living in the better-known city of Toronto. It is much the same as me telling people that we live in Milwaukee when we live in New Berlin in reality. Depending on whom I am speaking with, I may even say that we live north of Chicago. Who outside our geographical area has heard of New Berlin, Wisconsin, a city of only 40,000 inhabitants?
L to R: Phillip, Linda, and Marilyn at the entrance to Riverwood, City of Mississauga Credit Valley Conservation; Artwork at the entrance; walking the forested area; fisherman with his trout caught in the stream in the conservatory; entrance to the National Ballet School of Canada (try to see the glass covering on the building); closeup view of glass panels with musical notes etched into the glass; 4 examples of artwork in the gardens nearby the school; a large mural; hands statue.
While visiting Phillip and Marilyn Fourie, I saw this painting hanging on his wall. This is just one of many that adorn his abode. Phillip then showed this on Facebook, so I stole this copy. ‘Bo Kaap’ ~ 4 ft X 5 ft ~ Oil and Mixed Media on Canvas. Bo-Kaap is the distinct and colorful Malay District in Cape Town, South Africa. I, for one, would love to see this unique neighborhood be kept in the hands that created it.
For those without a creative streak, I added three photographs taken in Bo-Kaap, a community Linda and I toured in November 2017.
Day 4: Thursday, September 20, 2018. Mississauga and Toronto.
Marilyn works for the National Ballet School of Canada as an Executive Assistant to the Board of Directors. Marilyn and Phillip guided us for several hours around this world-class facility. “Established in 1959 by Betty Oliphant and Celia Franca, Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS) is one of the world’s foremost training institutions for aspiring young dancers and teachers.
With attracting students from across the country and worldwide, NBS is the only ballet academy in North America to provide elite dance training, academic instruction, and residential care on the same campus. The school’s progressive curriculum, with its emphasis on the physical and emotional well-being of the student, has put NBS at the forefront of dance training internationally. Talent is the sole criterion for acceptance into the NBS’ Professional Ballet Program.
“NBS also offers a professional Teacher Training Program, a Musician Mentorship Program, and Community Classes for both children and adults. The Associate’s Program offers classes after school and at weekends for students between the ages of 6 and 17. In contrast, the school’s popular Adult Ballet Program offers classes in the evenings and on weekends to adults of all fitness levels and dance experience.”
Sepe was one of South Africa’s star pupils trained by the ballet school. He trained initially in Montagu, Western Cape. “Siphesihle November was born in Worcester, South Africa, and trained at Canada’s National Ballet School. Mr. November joined the National Ballet of Canada as a member of the Corps de Ballet in 2017.
“Mr. November recently made his debut as Bluebird in The Sleeping Beauty and has danced in such ballet as The Nutcracker, Nijinsky, The Winter’s Tale, The Four Seasons, Emergence, Paz de la Jolla and The Dreamers Ever Leave You.”
In 2015 Fiona Sargent and her husband Mitya started their non-profit organization, DANCESCAPE South Africa. The focus is on developing our youth, in disadvantaged rural communities, through dance. Her incredible gift was to work with and develop young people to use the opportunities that DFA and Dancescape gave them to change their lives through dance. In 2011, two of the students. Aviwe and Mthuthuzeli November received bursaries to the Cape Academy of Performing Arts (CAPA), and they have both achieved greatness in their careers. Siphe November’s talent was nurtured to give him the privilege and opportunity to continue his training at the Canadian National Ballet School. Sadly, Fiona lost her battle with cancer on September 23, 2017.
On November 21, 2018, as the National Ballet of Canada presents the second part of its hometown fall season, Siphe is the only corps member among four men, two of the principal dancers, chosen to perform the challenging role of Puck in a revival of Frederick Ashton’s magical and comic masterpiece The Dream. It’s a significant role debut that demands technique, athleticism, and stamina, crucially combined with acute dramatic and musical sensitivity. Siphe has all the right stuff, according to National Ballet associate artistic director Christopher Stowell,
I was extremely impressed with the property development taking place in the Toronto region. I have visited Toronto on several occasions for business and seeing the considerable number of twenty and higher-story high-rise apartments and condominiums signifies a flourishing economy. The building boom in the area is remarkable. The arterial roads are congested and better than those I have experienced in the Milwaukee and Chicago areas. Having Phillip available to guide us made our stay more enjoyable. After a long day, we came home to another of his fantastic meals. Phillip is an artist and getting an opportunity to enjoy his art was an additional treat.
One additional observation in Canada is that the country displays a booming economy. Most of the vehicles are late models, including Tesla’s and Porches which are plentiful. It has an absence of large SUVs that dominate US roads. As mentioned earlier, there is a building boom. Provinces are willing to invest in new or expanding existing roads and maintenance.
The city of Toronto encourages property developers to allocate a minimum of 1 percent of every project’s construction costs to public art. Many new condominiums and commercial buildings have large sculptures, murals, quilts, and custom photographs in their lobbies, hallways, and outdoor areas. It helps bring a community feel to shared spaces. It has enabled artists to prosper.
Zero MPH into Montreal; Hotel de Paris main building, our annex on the diagonally opposite (kitty-corner) side of the road.
Day 5: Friday, September 21, 2018. Mississauga, Ontario to Montreal, Quebec.
After a special breakfast prepared by Phillip, we set off on the 350 miles (560 km), 6-hour journey to Montreal. The road was not as busy volume-wise with trucks and motor cars as we experienced driving into Toronto. With these long stretches, most motorists were not afraid to drive beyond the posted 100 km/h (62 MPH) speed limit.
As we neared Montreal, we encountered slow traffic, and at one stage, we were standing still on the motorway. We arrived at our Hotel de Paris, in the heart of Montreal, located on the main thoroughfare, Sherbrooke Street East. We did not stay in the small main hotel building but across the road in another small building owned by this private hotel. We paid for parking for three days as we did not want to keep our vehicle on the street, and the hotel provided us with parking in another nearby building.
Situated in the old city, the hotel was correspondingly old. Our room was small with a bathroom featuring a round shower, 90-degree walls on two sides, and just big enough to fit your body. The bathroom contained a small hand basin and toilet. Our double bed had one terrible feature. The mattress squeaked each time one of us turned, and worse yet if you had to get out of bed in the night for a bathroom break, you did wake your spouse. The hotel served our purpose and was conveniently located to tour the old city.
Montreal is one of the few major North American cities to have preserved its historical center. Here you find the remains of the old walled city and narrow winding streets dating back to the French colony. There are majestic Victorian buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries. Montreal was founded on May 17, 1642 (376 years ago).
We arrived late in the afternoon, took a walk around the local area, and decided to have dinner at the Taiwanese restaurant in the hotel. This day we elected to have an early night.
Tourist Map of Montreal Old City; The citizens of Montreal erected a statue to the first co-founder and governor of Montreal in 1895; Paul de Chomedey, (1612 – 1675); Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal–Gothic Revival church inaugurated in 1829; 4 photographs showing a portion of the inside of the Basilica; City Hall (built between 1872 and 1878, destroyed by fire in 1922, and rebuilt; City Hall facade up close; a photograph showing the gardens outside the Chateau Ramezay–historic site.
Three photographs showing the gardens outside the Chateau Ramezay–historic site and Museum of Montreal; Marche Bonsecours (Bonsecours Market, the place for all things made in Québec); two photographs of the outside of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel/Marguerite-Bourgeoys Museum (known as the “sailors’ church”); five pictures inside the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel; Jacques-Cartier Basin.
Montreal Science Center: three photographs showing the “underground city” including Terra Verde, the restaurant where we ate.
10K Marathon in Montreal. Note the South African flag.
Day 6: Saturday, September 22, 2018. Montreal’s old city.
The hotel provided a continental breakfast, after which we started a tour of the old city. Our grand plan of walking to see the sights was interrupted by a 10K marathon running in the town resulting in some intersections being blocked as they were barricaded to give runners clear access. We were not smart enough or experienced to find our way across or under barriers, a method we later learned.
As you will see in the video, there were plenty of seniors taking part in this race. Our first stop was the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal. Inaugurated in 1829, the church features magnificent artwork, stained glass windows and attracts thousands of visitors each year. Our sightseeing took us to another church—Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel. It was founded in 1655 and is known as the “sailor’s church.” We visited many attractions, including the port area, marketplaces such as Place Jacques-Cartier and Place d’Armes. Later we strolled through China Town.
Chateau Ramezay was built in 1705 by Pierre Couturier as a residence for Claude de Ramezay, Governor of Montreal. It transformed into a museum in 1895, presenting its magnificent collection and gardens.
Montreal has thirty-two kilometers (20 miles) of interlinked “underground city.” A series of interconnected office towers, hotels, shopping centers, residential and commercial complexes, convention halls, universities, and performing arts venues form the heart of Montreal’s central business district, colloquially referred to as Downtown Montreal. The name refers to the underground connections between the buildings that compose the network, in addition to the network’s complete integration with the city’s underground rapid transit system, the Montreal Metro. Weather conditions in winter drive the population underground so that they can dine, shop, and reach businesses in warm comfort.
We walked portions of the underground city and found a restaurant Terra Verde, owned by a father-and-son team. The father was born in Lebanon and moved to Montreal 40 years ago. He spoke English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Arabic. The quality of the food was excellent, the cost very reasonable, and the conversation was priceless. Montreal is home to people speaking eighty different languages. Walking around, you get to see how delightfully cosmopolitan the city is.
To be accurate, we found most of these underground walkways deserted. Why use them when the weather outside is so gorgeous? We did venture into and through portions of them to learn how this convenient facility functioned. If I am allowed criticism, the absence of signposting makes navigation difficult.
Today we walked 10.5 miles (17 kilometers).
As we learned in both Montreal and later Québec City, this is a French territory. Linda’s French through high school did little to support us. With a single exception of a house cleaner at our hotel, everyone we dealt with was fluent in English and French.
Three murals we saw on the walk to the Montreal Jardin Botanical Gardens; I thought telephone booths had gone out with the ark—but in plentiful supply in Montreal, some side by side; a 4-apartment home—note two entrances with their numbers on either side of each stair, a familiar site in Montreal.
A map of the 75-acre botanical gardens; entrance to the Montreal Jardin Botanical Gardens; Linda outside the entrance; 2 views of the Olympic Park taken from the gardens.
Linda inside one of the nine chambers; a close-up of the pod seen in the initial photograph; 2 South African plants; cactus.
Flowers in bloom; See the busy bees; photographs within the extensive gardens; Canadians love art–here lovers and a friend.
Japanese Garden Bonsai: notice the first pictured bonsai is 65 years old, the second 275 years old.
Day 7: Sunday, September 23, 2018. Montreal Botanical gardens
One quirk of common Montreal parlance is that directions (north, south, east, and west) along the street grid are sharply skewed relative to the actual compass directions. The St. Lawrence River is taken as flowing west to east (even though it flows north or northeast past the island) so that directions along streets parallel to the river are referred to as “west” and “east,” and those along streets perpendicular to the river, “north” and “south.” In much of Montreal, “north” is northwest, and in some areas such as Verdun and Pointe-aux-Trembles, it is due west. “Montreal directions” are used in naming street addresses and describing bus routes, among other things.
As a result of this discrepancy, Montreal has been called “the only city where the sun sets in the north.” Directions are according to the traditional Montreal map where downtown (for example, rue Sherbrooke) is east-west, with Mont-Royal to the north and the river to the south. “North” on the Victoria Bridge is southwest.
Sherbrooke Street is the main thoroughfare in Montreal. On this day Montreal had a 40-kilometer marathon, but our plans did not conflict with the runners. We walked north (according to our iPhone compass) on Sherbrooke for one hour to visit the Montreal Botanical Gardens or provide its full name in French “Jardin Botanique de Montréal.” The garden is one of the largest in the world. It comprises seventy-five hectares (190 acres) of thematic gardens and greenhouses.
We took 5 hours 30 minutes to walk its grounds, and I do not believe that we saw 10% of available fauna and flora. The gardens are so impressive that it would be worth visiting Montreal just to see the botanical gardens. We walked a total of 12.5 miles (20 kilometers) today. What an enjoyable day. We ate at the restaurant in the gardens twice. We had a morning tea break and dinner in the evening. We were impressed with the food and prices. During our wanderings, we visited the Japanese and Chinese gardens.
The Chinese collection consists of donations from the Shanghai Botanical Gardens and is the most significant outside of Asia. The garden was designed in keeping with Chinese traditions. Yin and yang, opposing yet complementary principles, are represented by water and stone.
The Japanese garden is 2.5 hectares (6 acres), with each tree, shrub, and stone carefully arranged. The bonsai garden was a unique attraction with its rare beauty. Trees range from 25 to over 350 years old.
Milwaukee has the Domes, a collection of three greenhouses catering to different climates. The Montreal Botanical Gardens has nine chambers to house different plant types. The amount of detail provided is overwhelming and hosts a considerable number of facts that to do this garden justice would require several days, if not weeks, to get the full appreciation.
Locals get free access. We spoke to an elderly couple who walk the gardens daily. We saw magnificent views of the Olympic Park set alongside the gardens, built to accommodate the 1976 Summer Olympics, and since then have been hosting more than one hundred million visitors.
Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral.
Day 8: Monday, September 24, 2018. Montreal to Québec City, Québec.
After a tasty meal at our bed and breakfast hotel in Montreal, we hit the road for Québec City. The 160-mile (258 kilometers) journey, scheduled to take 3 hours, took longer after we stopped to fill up with gas and top up at Tim Hortons with a cappuccino and cruller doughnut. We checked in at the Auberge Aux Deux Lions hotel in the center of Québec City. We rated this to be the best hotel we stayed in during our travels. Arriving too early to get into our room, we walked to the old city behind the walls to see the sights. Today we accomplished only seven miles (11 kilometers) of walking.
Québec City sits on the north bank of the Saint Lawrence River in Canada’s French-speaking Québec province. Dating to 1608, it has a fortified colonial core, Vieux-Québec, and Place Royale, with stone buildings and narrow streets. This area is the site of the towering Château Frontenac Hotel and the imposing Citadelle of Québec. The Petit Champlain district’s cobblestone streets are lined with bistros and boutiques.
Québec City is the capital of Québec province, with a population of 530,000 and a metropolitan population of 800,000. The Algonquian people had initially named the area Kébec, an Algonquin word meaning, “where the river narrows.” Québec must be written with the accented é in both English and French.
The Saint Lawrence Seaway is a system of locks and canals in Canada and the United States that permits ocean-going vessels to travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, serving Lake Superior and Lake Erie. Boaters can navigate 6,100 miles (9,800 kilometers) from Québec City to New Orleans, Louisiana, on the Gulf of Mexico.
In the late afternoon, we took a 2-hour bus tour of the old and new cities. The video I took from the bus’s upper deck had me freezing but provided an excellent view for photographs. Later we purchased a warmer jacket as I had not packed warm enough clothing. Linda bought a scarf, gloves, and a hat for the chilly weather.
We ate at an Italian restaurant for dinner, one that was recommended by the tour guide—finally checked into our room after 7:30 pm. The weather forecast for the next day was afternoon rain, so we planned carefully how to get the most out of our day in the morning. More unwelcome news: parking in any central city is a challenge. The hotel provided a parking spot just off the street nearby. It required that I go back into a small alley space, leaving just enough room so that I could get out of the driver-side door. I managed to scrape the front side fender on a metal railing. When I get back home, I will decide if I will get this touched up. I know it is not that bad, but it is my first scrape.
Entrance to the walled city of old Québec; district of Saint Jean-Baptiste; church demolished the week after our visit; street scene; narrow thoroughfare where artists sell their wares; a monument to soldiers who gave their lives in war; several photographs of the luxury Hotel Le Chateau Frontenac including the opulent foyer and art in the hotel.
Our tour guide; The Plains of Abraham—National Battlefields Park; Saint Joan of Arc (1409-1431); Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970); François-Xavier Garneau (1809-1866) historian; Winston Spencer Churchill (1874-1965); large murals decorate buildings.
La Citadelle de Quebec, 22nd Royal Regiment, under French command (1608-1759), British (1763-1867), Canadian (1867 –current), our military guide; views on the base and looking down at the city.
The Québec Parliament Building (in French, Hôtel du Parlement) is an eight-story building built from 1877 to 1886; outside the building, there are 26 different bronze statues on the building’s facade dedicated to influential men and women who helped to shape society in Québec; 2 close-ups showing a few statues in the edifice; there is a monument dedicated to women in politics, created by sculptor, Jules Lasalle, containing four statues of women who played a lead role in demanding and obtaining the right for women to vote in Québec; the Quebec coat of arms—with top to bottom, the fleurs-de-lis symbolizing royal France, a lion representing the Kingdom of England, and the maple leaves symbolizing Canada; 2 stain glass windows inside the building; an ornate staircase; 5 views inside the chambers.
Poutine dish at Chez AshTon.
Day 9: Tuesday, September 25, 2018, Québec City
The day began with a continental breakfast at our hotel. We joined a 2-hour walking tour that took us to the old city area—once more learned about Québec City. It has the lowest crime rate of any city in North America. Walking home after dark late last night, we saw several women, young and old, striding it out alone without a care in the world.
The rain began at about 10:00 am today but was not enough to spoil the day. After lunch, we toured the Citadelle. Since 1920, the Citadelle has been the home station of the Royal 22 Régiment of the Canadian Forces. The young offer, exceptionally fluent in English, did a masterful job of entertaining us with its history and accomplishments while showing pride for his regiment.
As we made our way back to the hotel, we stopped in at Chez AshTon, the original restaurant, to introduce Poutine, a delicious fare that could do a number on your heart. Poutine is a dish originating from the Canadian province of Québec, consisting of French fries and cheese curds topped with brown gravy. The dish emerged in the late 1950s in the Centre-du-Québec area and has long been associated with the cuisine of Québec.
Learning the customs and laws of a city is fascinating. Pedestrians wishing to cross the road must do so when the signal indicates it is safe to walk. You trigger a switch to activate the crosswalk lights. Crossing against a light will cost you $160. I found it amazing that if you wish to cross a road, then cross to the opposite side; you can jaywalk (diagonally) legally.
The motorists are incredibly polite. If you cross in front of them, they will stop for you. The streets have yellow “zebra” crossings in some places; here, motorists are obliged to stop for pedestrians. I asked the guide about motor cars. By comparison, in the US, large SUVs dominate the streets. Here, the guide told me, Canadians prefer European-style vehicles, smaller cars. In addition, gasoline is 50% higher than in the US.
We were in and out of churches again today. I photographed the outside of an ancient church near our hotel. It will be demolished within the next two weeks.
Lunch at Québec Parliament; general menu; our menu—and we saved $4; two photographs showing the elegant dining room with smartly dressed waiters; Linda wearing the required visitor’s badge; enjoying wine with elegant crockery and cutlery; main course; desert; three close-ups of the crockery are showing insignia’s.
Hotel Le Concord with the rotating Ciel! Bistro-bar on the 28th floor showing views from the 360-degree rotation beginning with The Plains of Abraham—National Battlefields Park seeing Saint Joan of Arc’s statue from on high; additional city views and the Saint Lawrence Seaway in the distance.
Day 10: Wednesday, September 26, 2018, Québec City
Today can be best defined as a more refined day, primarily due to inclement weather. We traded breakfast in the hotel for breakfast across the road at Tim Hortons. Tim Hortons Inc. is a multinational fast-food restaurant known for its coffee and donuts. It is also Canada’s largest quick-service restaurant chain; as of December 31, 2016, it had 4,613 restaurants in nine countries. We have seen a few Tim Hortons in the US. The company is a holding of publicly traded Restaurant Brands International (RBI). RBI is majority-owned by 3G Capital, a Brazilian investment company with 51%. Fast food brands include Burger King, Popeyes, and Tim Hortons. RBI has 24,000 restaurants in more than one hundred countries.
We walked to the Québec Parliament House to participate in an English-guided tour where the guide provided historical information and contemporary detail. They have two restaurants, a café style, and a formal dining room where they serve a 3-course meal including soup, the main entrée, dessert, coffee, and wine or beer. Linda and I loved royalty treatment. We ate off the best China by Noritake, with expensive cutlery, genuine cloth napkins/serviettes, and very smartly dressed servers. It enhanced the taste of fine cuisine.
As tourists, we do make mistakes. We thought that we were going on the Saint Lawrence River to be part of a conducted tour, but we ended up on a ferry ride to get to the mainland across the river. Had we made the trip at night, we would have been able to see the lights of Québec City. The tours started at the dock alongside the one we boarded.
On the return walk, we detoured via the Hotel Le Concorde to have drinks at Ciel! Bistro Bar, a rotating restaurant on the 28th floor. The rotation takes an hour featuring an unparalleled 360-degree view of the city. To access the restaurant, we used the glass elevator outside of the hotel. It was a scary ride with an awesome sight. Having just eaten, we ordered a drink and nuts to provide an excuse to sit and experience the complete vista.
It was the least energetic day because of the rain, and I only accomplished walking five miles (8 kilometers). We retired early to catch up on reading ahead of a long driving day tomorrow as we headed back into the USA and Lake Placid.
While walking around Lake Placid, we saw this dam, and alongside a tribute to John “Jack” Barry—no relation that I am aware of; Lake Placid; fall colors; inside Black Bear Restaurant; Lake Placid Olympic Museum known for its winter sports in the states the Adirondack Mountains; a storefront in the village advertising South Africa’s biltong (jerky) treats.
Day 11: Thursday, September 27, 2018, Québec City to Lake Placid, New York
Today we left Québec City, Canada, and drove the 260 miles (418 kilometers) in 5 hours to Lake Placid, New York, home to the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. A quaint town where we walked five miles and enjoyed a quality dinner at the Black Bear Restaurant. The biggest surprise was to find a tribute to John D. “Jack” Barry, who died at 83 on Tuesday, May 1, 2007, at the Adirondack Medical Center after a lengthy illness. Not sure, and in fact, doubt, he is a blood relative. Thursday, we are off to Rochester, New York.
Day 12: Friday, September 28, 2018, Lake Placid, NY to Rochester, NY
For the first 3 hours of our 5-hour trip and the first 130 miles of our 260-mile trip, we drove from Lake Placid, New York, on route to Rochester, New York, through the Adirondack Mountain range. This is the first time in my driving career that I did not exceed the speed limit once.
The entire route is tree-lined, starting to reveal its autumn colors—a breathtakingly beautiful sight. The road took us up the mountain slopes and down into the valleys repeatedly. There was hardly more than a few hundred yards without the road curving to the left or right, or up or down. We had to brake once for a turkey on the road, and while I concentrated entirely on driving the slalom, Linda spotted a wolf and a deer on the side of the road.
If the tall trees were not majestic enough, we would have lost count of the number of lakes and rivers we passed along the way. Numerous villages and towns sprang out of nowhere to add relief from the trees and lakes. Some looked one or two hundred years old, some in a state of disrepair, yet others well maintained. Many buildings are isolated and far from civilization.
In contrast, numerous homes, restaurants, and businesses were new. We were fascinated with a few large schools along the way. The area is subject to harsh winters with ice and snow-covered roads. It was not surprising to see a concentration of Subaru’s on the road, engineered and ready to take on whatever nature will send its way. The drive is worth a visit again, soon, one day.
Rochester was an opportunity to celebrate with former South Africans. We learned about New York State Law. We stopped in at a large grocery store, Wegmans. We enquired about purchasing wine. They informed us that they are only permitted to sell wine with extremely low alcohol content, something they would not recommend we purchase. They recommended purchasing it from a liquor store next door. We bought wine from the liquor store and asked to buy cold beer. No, the liquor stores cannot sell beer, under state law, but we can procure it from Wegmans!
Dinner with the Goddard’s—left to right: Linda, Tony Goddard, Jenny, and Gerrit Beker, Fiona Goddard; Jen and Linda; Tony and Jen (brother and sister), with Linda; strolling along Lake Ontario; bird haven; display addressing the environmental harm humans are doing to The Great Lakes.
Day 13: Saturday, September 29, 2018
Today was a quieter day spent with friends. We stayed with Tony and Fiona in Penfield, outside Rochester, New York. Tony’s sister Jenny and husband Gerrit Beker from New Zealand were visiting. It was the motivation for our trip. Linda and Jen were at school together for 12 years, graduating high school in 1966. They wanted an opportunity to catch up face-to-face to share years of experiences. The morning was spent walking along Lake Ontario, where we racked up seven miles (11 kilometers). After lunch, we walked around town, including the restaurant district.
George Eastman Museum; facade; George’s portrait; 2 pictures inside the mansion; 6 images or relics in the museum.
Nine photographs reflect the magnificent George Eastman Museum gardens.
Day 14: Sunday, September 30, 2018
Today we walked a total of six miles (10 kilometers). In the morning, we walked with Fiona along a tiny portion of the Erie Canal that runs from Buffalo (where it meets Lake Erie) to New York (where it meets the Hudson River to Albany, NY. In the afternoon, we spent 3 hours on a tour of the George Eastman Museum, the founder of Kodak. It was more than fascinating to learn about the life and achievements of this great man. The word “Kodak” was first registered as a trademark in 1888. George Eastman and his mother invented the name.
Tomorrow, Monday, we begin the journey back home, arriving on Tuesday. It has been an exceptionally wonderful time visiting many fabulous cities and sites, especially visiting great family and friends.
Day 15: Monday, October 1, 2018
Today on the homeward journey, we started in Rochester, New York, with an overnight stop in Toledo, Ohio. The distance covered 375 miles (603 kilometers), taking 6 hours. We have now driven over 2,000 miles (3220 kilometers). I can report, without contradiction, that the most dangerous drivers live in the Cleveland, Ohio, area. We drove around that city in heavy traffic for 15 to 20 minutes. We saw a motorcyclist weave in and out of traffic speeding up to one hundred miles per hour in a 55-mph zone under state law during that period. We saw a motorist reading a book while driving in heavy traffic, unable to see what was happening on the road. We saw several motorists having great difficulty staying in their lane while taking on their cell phones.
Several overhead signs were warning of the danger of driving while drug-addicted—obviously, a problem in this community. We had one motorist driving a Subaru latch onto my rear bumper. I was so annoyed and learned why road rage is expected in the US. I told Linda I was going to hit my brakes. I did. He veered to the left shoulder of the road and back behind me. I was in the fast lane of a three-lane highway. He proceeded to move to the center lane, shot past me, and pulled in front of me, without too much driving distance trying to intimidate me while I pulled back to give him space. He recklessly shot over to the right lane across three lanes and took an exit ramp.
It is not typical of the behavior we have experienced in our neighborhood, nor seen this behavior in other cities or roads, as we traveled in Canada and the northern US. The sad news: we only walked three miles today. This year we set one record by dining at McDonald’s for lunch along the drive and dinner near our hotel. We had no other choice. That makes it eat a total of twice at McDonald’s this year in a single day.
The Fairfield Inn hotel we stayed at in Toledo, Ohio, was an experience as well. It is based in the community where the hotel is located. If you want more details, contact me. In brief, this community appears to consist of obese and a poorer class of people. We saw that in the restaurant we dined in and the stores we shopped in. It was not the America we have grown to love over 31 years.
Day 16: Tuesday, October 2, 2018
We made it back home safely with the realization that it was wonderful to be home. The experience was great, as was visiting friends and family. In planning this trip, we estimated that the travel distance would be 2,464 miles. We underestimated by 1.25% and traveled 2,495 miles. The thirteen tolls totaled $32.23, including IL, NY, and OH. I will not share the expense budget, other than to say we overshot that dramatically—but it contributed to the enjoyment of our experience.
The hotel we stayed in last night came with strobe lights in our bedroom. In the center of the room, they had a ceiling-mounted smoke detector.
On either side of the sensor was a tiny LED (light-emitting diode). Naturally, we did not see this as we turned off the lights and shut our eyes. In the early morning, as we were walking, we saw the two LEDs flashing every second, for 12 seconds, then burning brightly, and restarting the flashing process all over again.
The hotel served a great breakfast, so we did not complain. That beat out the more upscale Courtyard hotel we stayed at on the previous Thursday night. Here we had to pay for breakfast, as it was not included in the room rate. They served Starbucks coffee—cold, and the over-medium eggs were primarily served raw. We sat outside the kitchen, and they had a portable 4-part tall screen to hide the view from the kitchen staff. The manager knocked the screen over but fortunately fell away from us. It was a loud bang, and if we had not awoken before, we indeed were now.
I am sure that we will plan additional trips to learn more about our great continent.
Updated November 3, 2019