Today we will stroll through the cobblestone streets of Quebec City, North America’s only walled city, of a tour of the old town.. We will learn how maple syrup is made and dine on Quebecois fare at a local Sugar Shack. Tonight we will enjoy a two night stay at the Le Westin Montreal.
After an early start (walked 6,000 steps before 6:00am) and breakfast, we boarded our coach and after all the “legal” requirements, like telling us where all the fire safety equipment is and how to break a window if needed, we were joined by a city guide for 2 hours of touring the city sites “officially”. This is handy to complete the pieces of the questions raised in our minds during the last 3 days of walking around the interesting city of Quebec.
We heard a little about the occupations of both the British and the French and the wars that ensued over time. The Plains of Abraham, where much of Quebec has been built, were explained to us: these are named after a person with the same name as that of a biblical character but not related in any way. Last impressions of Quebec? – a very comfortable city to live in with lovely parklands and clean ancient buildings where cafes and restaurants abound.
We headed out onto the freeway towards Montreal, our destination for the day. School is back in now and so there are many motor homers heading to various advantage spots to enjoy the ‘changing of the leaves’, which is a major activity to do in this area at this time of the year. You’ve heard the saying “watching grass grow”, well here there is a saying “watching leaves fall”. The highway is wide with two lane carriageways and a wide expanse between the two.
Our morning comfort stop was at a location where Tommycod Ice Fishing is a must do during the cold, icy winter. Shacks, or little houses are moved out onto the iced-up river when only men, it seems, then drill a hole in the ice and fish for tommycod for days at a time. Once the river freezes during the early part of February, there becomes a fishing village of over 500 fishing cabins with rows of guys inside, fishing. Who knows how many people are involved but it has become a large festival during the season. If not involved with fishing, there is plenty of other activities to enjoy like skating, sledding, snowshoeing and hiking.
On from the fishing shack village, we needed lunch and become guests of Chez Dany at the Maple Sugar Shack. Maple Syrup is an important part of the culture and work-life of the area as it gets a mention frequently. I recall learning how rubber is harvested in Asia and learnt today that maple syrup is harvested a similar way, but with lots more automation. Apart from the draining system being similar to here, instead of having a collecting vial at each tree, a pluming system has been created and all the sap runs into larger collection points. Harvesting can only take place during a certain temperature range. From here, the sap is boiled to purify the syrup, before it is ‘farmed’ and bottled for export to many countries around the world. We were served a ‘community’ lunch including beans, would you believe, while being entertained with a local fiddler playing music of the region. There were also wooden spoons we could join in or dance to the music.
On from maple syrup town, we cruise into Montreal.
The city of Montreal is on the Island of Montreal, which took its name from the same source as the city, and a few much smaller peripheral islands, the largest of which is IleBizard. It has a distinct four-season continental climate with warm to hot summers and cold snowy winters.
In 2016 the city had a population of 1,704,694. Montreal’s metropolitan had a population of 4,098,927 and a population of 1,942,044 in the urban agglomeration, with all of the municipalities on the Island of Montreal included. French is the city’s official language and is the language spoken at home by 49.8% of the population of the city, followed by English at 22.8% and 18.3% other languages (in the 2016 census, not including multi-language responses). In the larger Montreal Census Metropolitan Area, 65.8% of the population speaks French at home, compared to 15.3% who speak English. The agglomeration Montreal is one of the most bilingual cities in Quebec and Canada with over 59% of the population able to speak both English and French. Montreal is the second-largest primarily French-speaking city in the world, after Paris.
The ride into town didn’t send signals to me that this city had anything special to give to me. Yes, they had the Olympics here in 1976 and various World Trade Fair types of exhibitions, but so far, I just haven’t been ‘grabbed’. We are staying at the Westin in downtown and after a short walk, we came to the wharf area which is badly in need of a tidy-up. However, we did find a zip-line and a ropes course that could entertain us tomorrow. Beyond that point, there is a fun park, roller coaster park and a stadium.
Tomorrow, we check out the City of Montreal, “officially”, then take a visit to the Notre Dame.