Friday, June 22, 2018

Un Jour en Montréal

Un Jour en Montréal

This post is made possible in part by my Patreon supporters, and for Rasmussen Travels for setting the trip up. Thank you.

Description and Brief History

Montréal was the second major stop on our French Canadian trip. We quickly learned that Montréal did not attract us as fast as Québec did. I usually do not mind urban driving, but Montréal proved itself to have some of the worst drivers of a city I have visited. Up there with New York, Atlanta, and Salt Lake City. It was a great moment to pull into the hotel and drop the car off, not to need it again until we had to leave.

Montréal is the largest city in the Provence of Québec, and is an important economic hub for Canada. It is also the second largest Canadian city, right behind Toronto. Percentage-wise, the Anglophone community of Montréal is larger than Québec. It lies on an island where the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers meet, roughly a little more than 150 miles from Québec.

What We Did


After we arrived, we turned our car over the valet, and headed for dinner at Peel Pub, caught a movie, and turned in.


Waking up this day proved to be a bit more difficult. After days of moving on and on, exhaustion finally caught up to us. So we ended up sleeping in a bit.

When we finally got up for our day, we headed towards the mountain in the heart of the city that gave the city its name: Mont Royal (in English, Mount Royal). We spent all morning hiking this mountain. We did not take the direct pathway towards the summit, but taking the switchback pathways. While we were there, I thought that it had a Central Park "feel," only to find out that the designer of the Mount Royal park was the same designer of Central Park. We stopped for lunch at a café. After lunch, we continued our hike, and ended at the famous Chalet du Mont-Royal. I was excited to find a piano found in the lookout, only to find that through use, it was well loved, but not as playable as I would have hoped. The views of Montréal from this lookout were stunning.

view of Montréal from the Chalet du Mont-Royal

We then made our descent and went back to our hotel, rested a moment, and headed towards Old Montréal to visit Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal. Unfortunately, they had closed only 30 minutes before we got there, so we could not go inside. Oh well.
Facade of Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal
Then Jordan read about a cool place to visit for the evening after dinner: Bootlegger l'authentique, a jazz bar that serves whiskey and classic cocktails. We love jazz, and love swing dancing, and I am a fan of whiskey, so we walked there. Again unfortunately, they are not open on Mondays, so we could not get in. So we took a quick rest at Mckibbins Irish Pub, then walked back to our hotel to decide on dinner.

We chose 3 Brasseurs (3 Brewers in English) for dinner. We split a wonderful flammekueche, or tarte flambée, a flat bread topped with cheese and other toppings, similar to a flat pizza, and paired it with an amber ale. We were seated at a corner table, and it was a busy intersection, so it was a great time to people watch.

Conclusions

While not as enjoyable to us as Québec was, we still enjoyed Montréal and want to come back. One day is simply not enough time to explore what Montréal has to offer. So when we come back, it would be more than 1 or 2 full days.

Things I did not get to see or visit this time around, but will in the future:

  • Old Montréal and the Ports
  • Notre Dame Bascilica
  • Bootlegger l'authentique
  • Biosphère de Montréal
  • Biodôme de Montréal
  • Orchestre symphonique de Montréal
  • RESO, the underground city

This post is a part of a series. Read more of the series here.

  1. "Le Voyage de canada français"
  2. "Un Jour en Québec"
  3. "Delta Hotels by Marriott Québec - A Review"
  4. "Un Jour en Montréal"
  5. "Hotel Omni Mont-Royal - A Review"
Un Jour en Montréal

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Delta Hotels by Marriott Québec - A Review

Delta Hotels by Marriott Québec - A Review

This post is made possible in part by my Patreon supporters, and for Rasmussen Travels for setting the trip up. Thank you.

This post is a review of the Delta Hotels by Marriott Québec. They are not paying me for this entry, and in no way have sponsored, endorsed, or have administered me to have written this post.




This is the hotel we chose to stay at in the Québec portion of our French Canada anniversary trip.

First Impressions

After a 23 hour drive (what should have been 18), we arrived exhausted and ready for bed. The valet greeted us, and took our car to park. We entered the front door, and took the escalators to the third floor to the front desk. Unfortunately, we hit a snag with our banks, delaying our check in. The young lady at the front desk gave us vouchers for a round of drinks at the bar. She did not need to do that. The fault with our banks was entirely on us (not even with our banks). Again, I thank her for her generosity.

Room details

Also, we found out that we got a free upgrade from a Guest Room (standard room with 1 King bed) to a Delux Room (a corner room, slightly bigger, with a view and 1 King bed). Room amenities included room service, a coffee maker, a sofa, a desk and working station, both wired and wireless Internet, and cable TV. The bed was so comfy! It provided the comfort I greatly needed after such a long drive, and also after a day of walking around the city. The shower was a walk-in shower, and it steamed up well. I always appreciate when a hotel room provides a resting surface that is not an office chair nor a bed. As in, something like a sofa. I loved that it was there, and greatly enjoyed it. When I was not sleeping, it was a great place to rest as we changed for evening events like dinner and drinks. Housekeeping also performed their jobs as expected. I support measures done by hotels to be more green, and try to follow instructions set by the hotel to ensure green practices. Why do I need my towels or bed sheets changed on the daily? Answer: I do not. Again, Delta Hotels, thank you for being green in this measure.

Hotel Amenities

Amenities with the hotel included a restaurant with a bar, valet service, a fitness centre, a business centre for printing and faxing, and a heated pool that is open all year around. We did not partake of amenities, except the bar. The bar was fantastic. Being an Anglophone by birth, there are simply some phrases in French that I do know know yet. The bartender graciously taught my wife and I some useful phrases for ordering at a bar in French. My most useful phrase I learned was "sur glace," literally "on ice" for "on the rocks." I was introduced to a new brewery, Trou du diable. Their selection of Irish whiskeys was a bit scant. They only had Jameson and Bushmill's. Not too surprised there. Most places to not venture more than those two staples, but I do suggest looking in on expanding the Irish whiskey selection.


View of Québec City from the 7th floor of the Delta Hotel
Our view from the room

Hotel Location

It was wonderfully located. It was only a few blocks from the Old City and walking distance from less touristy spots to explore and dine. Not once did we have to ask for our car before check out nor had to get a cab. Which is good, because parking anywhere near the Old City is a mess. As it is located close to the Québec Parliament buildings, it was quiet and restful.

Recommendations

I recommend this hotel. The service went above and beyond, the room was what I wanted, and the location in the city is perfect. While I do suggest a fuller bar, that of course is a non essential and will not affect any decision to come back.

This post is a part of a series. Read more of the series here.

  1. "Le Voyage de canada français"
  2. "Un Jour en Québec"
  3. "Delta Hotels by Marriott Québec - A Review"
  4. "Un Jour en Montréal"
  5. "Hotel Omni Mont-Royal - A Review"
Delta Hotels by Marriott Québec - A Review

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Un Jour en Québec

Un Jour en Québec

This post is made possible in part by my Patreon supporters, and for Rasmussen Travels for setting the trip up. Thank you.


Description and Brief History

Just as the New York trip last year was a part of the bucket list for my mom and sisters, Québec was a part of my own bucket list. As this trip served as my anniversary trip with my wife, I was very much looking forward to it.

Québec is the only walled city north of Mexico, and Old Québec is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It lies on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, across from Lévis. The Provintial Capital of Québec in the heart of Francophone Canada, only 1.5% speak English reportedly as of 2007. Which was a great opportunity for both my wife and I to practice our French with other people. Something we seriously miss out on in Central Illinois.

What We Did

We woke up, and immediately went to Old Québec. Our hotel (Delta Marriott Québec) was only a few blocks away, so it was a quick walk. Once we got into the old city, we found a cute little café called Nili Alimentation. It is one of those small places that does not have an Internet presence. We ordered our coffees and breakfasts. The food hit the spot, but the espresso was under-extracted. When I come back to Québec, this will not be high up on my places to re-visit.

After coffee, we started our exploration.
Facade of the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Québec City
Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Trinity

Our first main stop was the Anglican cathedral of the Holy Trinity. This has the honour of being the first Anglican cathedral built outside of the British Isles. It was exactly what I love about High Church Anglicans. Right as you enter the nave, the beautiful stained glass icon of the Ascension imposes your view behind the alter. The architecture draws your eyes upwards towards the heavens, and there is the unutterable name of God written above. Commissioned by King George III (the same king the US rebelled against and gained our independence from), and thus has his coat of arms on the Royal Pew, there is an exhibit showing the gifts given to the cathedral from the king, and other members of the Royal Family, such as a Bible, a Book of Common Prayer, communion chalices, and more.
Facade of the Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Québec City
Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Québec
As Québec is French, there are bound to be more Catholics than Anglicans. Therefore, our next stop was the Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady (Notre Dame) of Québec. Immediately, your eyes catch the golden cherubs arching upwards towards the Resurrected Christ. Along the sides of the nave are smaller chapels dedicated to various saints. Also, there is the grave of St. François de Laval, the first bishop of Québec.

No trip to Québec is complete without the customary visit to the Château Frontenac. This hotel dominates the Québec skyline, and is its most iconic building. Now owned and operated by the Fairmont Hotels and Resorts chain, it has its history as a "grand railway hotel," a 5-star hotel for rail passengers. It is named after Louis de Buade, Count of Frontenac, a governor of New France and leader against the English and Iroquois armies during the Nine Years' War. The boardwalk running in front of the hotel is a popular place to take pictures. Not only can you get photogenic shots of the hotel, but you can also get lovely shots of the river. After taking more than a few pictures, we went inside to the hotel bar and ordered a round of drinks. While I got to fulfil a dream of ordering a drink there, I still need to stay there as a guest.
Jordan and me in front of the Fairmont Château Frontenac

We bought a quick lunch from a small grocery store called Epicerie Richard (no website), and walked towards the Citadel. It is the oldest military building in Canada, and it is still operational. Admission to the Citadelle and museum is $16 for an adult, and if you arrive before 10 AM (in the summertime) you can witness the changing of the guard. As the fort is still an operational military base, all admissions to the fort are guided.

After going to the Citadelle, we visited two bookstores: Librairie Pantoute, and Librairie St-Jean-Baptiste, where we bought French versions of The Hobbit (Le Hobbit, note: not L'Hobbit) and The Lord of the Rings (Le Seigneur des anneaux). Then we went back to our hotel room to freshen up before dinner.




For dinner we chose Pub Galway, a wonderful little Irish Pub. She wanted poutine, but I wanted sausage. How we ended up getting 0 Irish food in an Irish pub is besides me, but, whatever. It happened. And it was tasty. Highly recommend.




The next day, we woke up, went to Orthodox Liturgy (in a basement of a Catholic church), and then left to Montréal.

Conclusions

I absolutely fell in love with Québec. I will absolutely come back to spend more time. Not only explore more of the Old City, but also a lot of the new. I am not a fan of snow, but I will have to come see the charm of the Old City during winter that I keep hearing about.

Things I did not get to see or visit this time around, but will in the future:

  • The Port, including using the Breakneck Steps (L'Escalier Casse-Cou)
  • Eating at Le Cochon Dingue
  • Using the ferry to visit Lévis

This post is a part of a series. Read more of the series here.

  1. "Le Voyage de canada français"
  2. "Un Jour en Québec"
  3. "Delta Hotels by Marriott Québec - A Review"
  4. "Un Jour en Montréal"
  5. "Hotel Omni Mont-Royal - A Review"
Un Jour en Québec

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Le Voyage de canada français

Le Voyage de canada français

This post is made possible in part by my Patreon supporters, and for Rasmussen Travels for setting the trip up. Thank you.




Since we were graciously given time at a resort for our honeymoon in Cabo san Lucas, we could not go on the honeymoon of our original choice: Québec. Last year for our anniversary, we also could not go, so we went to Chicago. This year, thankfully, we were finally able to go. It was a 5 day Québécois vacation; half in Québec, half in Montréal.




Day 1


Thursday, May 24

I picked up the car from Enterprise, dropped off our rabbit, and we took off to drive through the night (something I usually try to avoid). The drive took 18 hours to get to Québec.




Day 2

Friday, May 25


Driving day. This sucked. It was supposed to take 18 hours, and ended up taking closer to 23. From car sickness, to construction, to car crashes stopping traffic, to even the GPS crashing and losing signal, it seemed like the Canadian highways themselves were determined to keep us from ever reaching Québec. However, I was even more determined to finally get there.

Eventually, we did get there.

After a 23 hour drive, and me being awake for almost 25 hours straight, we finally were able to check in at the hotel. That was not so easy either. Of course, we had bank troubles, as the credit card we originally planned on using apparently was not allowed to be used internationally (despite the fact of me checking if it could before the trip). We checked in, I changed into a polo and blazer, and my wife and I toasted to arriving at the hotel bar before going to bed.

We stayed at the Delta Hotels by Marriott Quebec. A review of that hotel is available.




Day 3

Saturday, May 26


We woke up, and immediately headed towards Old Québec. We also immediately fell in love. We spent the entire afternoon walking around the Old City: visiting the cathedrals, the Château Frontenac, and exploring the small shops and boutiques. Plus, it was great to be able to speak in French, something we do not get a lot of opportunity to back home in Central Illinois. Turns out that it was unusually warm that weekend, and it was nice and sunny this day. That made for easy walking. For dinner, we walked away from the touristy area, and found an inviting Irish Pub. Then we turned in for the night. Full details of our day can be found here.



Day 4

Sunday, May 27


This was another travel day. This being our last day in Québec, we departed for Montréal. About half way there, we stopped at Trois-Rivières. We were recommended to go by my voice teacher who grew up there. Unfortunately for me, I was getting frustrated with the GPS, and simply pulled over to the nearest bakery ("boulangerie") for lunch, and then got back on the highway to get to Montréal. Sadly, this bakery was not in the best neighbourhood, and the stop made me frustrated further and not want to visit anymore of the city. It turns out that I simply needed to get two blocks more west to get to the main road and get downtown. The negative fruits of frustration.

Two hours later, we made it to Montréal. The people driving there are worse than drivers in even New York. Back to being frustrated. We pulled into the hotel, turned in our car, and checked in. We stayed at the Hotel Omni Mont-Royal. It was wonderful. Here is that review. For dinner, we went to a Canadian bar, and then watched Deadpool 2. Watching Deadpool in Canada (a Canadian character played by a Canadian actor) was a completely different experience, especially with all the Canadian jokes. After a tiring day, we turned in.



Day 5

Monday, May 28



This day was the first day we slept in this entire trip. It was great, and very much was needed. We spent the morning hiking Mont Royal, the mountain on the island where the city gets its name. We were able to get lunch and pictures of the skyline from the top. We then descended and walked over to Old Montréal to visit Notre Dame Bascilica. Sadly, they closed just 30 minutes before we arrived. So we turned around and went to dinner at a French style tavern and people watched while eating. We ended the day by visiting the hotel bar before going to bed.



Day 6

Tuesday, May 29


Thus ends our trip. We woke up, checked out, and hopped back in the car for the 15 hour drive home.

This post is a part of a series. Read more of the series here.

  1. "Le Voyage de canada français"
  2. "Un Jour en Québec"
  3. "Delta Hotels by Marriott Quebec"
  4. "Un Jour en Montréal"
  5. "Hotel Omni Mont-Royal"
Le Voyage de canada français

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Experience at the Archway

This post is made possible in part by Rasmussen Travels for setting the trip up. Thank you.

Driving home from the previous Utah road trip proved to be quite an adventure. First plug, my wife and I stayed at the same hotel as the trip out west. The recommendation still stands. When we woke up, we awoke to a winter weather warning, so we quickly hit the road again after breakfast as to try and get ahead of the storm.

We failed at that.

The drive from North Platte all the way to the Mississippi River (roughly 580 miles) was terrible. Ice and wind prevented me from driving faster than 60 MPH the entire way. The speed limit on I-80 in most of rural Nebraska is 80 MPH, and when we were pushed to drive slower than 40, I knew it was time to get off the highway.

We got off the highway just east of Kearney, NE, and stopped at the Archway. Boy, are we glad we did. With all the times I have driven west and back and passing under the Archway that goes over the highway, I have always wanted to stop and give it a look, and the poor weather provided us that time. I am extremely grateful for their hospitality.



The Archway is a museum that tells the story of the westward expansion of the American people, and also the growth of technology that connected the East to the West. It is a self-guided audio tour showcasing 1830's through 1950's.

When you first walk in, you are greeted with an escalator that led up through a mural of the western landscape. The escalator was flanked on both sides by faux rocks and ground, and mannequins of people also "climbing" towards the top of the stairs.



Note on the mannequins found throughout the museum: the faces are recreated off of photographs from the era they portray, so they are actual people. They were built by the Disney animatronics builders, and throughout the stay, I half expected them to move like the Disney animatronics. This was confirmed by one of the volunteers after I had gone through the archway.

Past the mural was a recreation of Fort Kearny, an important stop on the voyage west, and the conjunction of the Oregon, Mormon, and California Trails. Here, the emigrants rested and restocked before taking off towards the western wilderness.



Next room consists of three stories, one story for each of the three trails as they converge, heading towards their respective destinations.


Left: Prospective prospectors (49ers) on the California trail
Right: Mormons on the Mormon trail
Oregon trail emigrants were on a mural.
After that, you pass into a room portraying the building of the trans-continental railroad, the Pony Express, and the telegraph. Also, you hear of the telegraph that told the West of the Civil War.

Up the stairs, and you are greeted with the passing of technology to automobiles, and an introduction to the Lincoln Highway. Here, you see tourist camp grounds, drive-ins, and a diner.



After this exhibit, you take the escalator back down to the lobby, where you can buy from the gift shop or pick up information on even more Nebraska tourist information.

This is a gem hidden in plain sight. I am quite happy that the weather forced us in. It has given me inspiration for future trips that I wish to report. Give yourself the much needed rest from driving, take an hour or more (we were there for almost 2 hours), and enjoy this treasure.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Chillin' at the Holiday Inn

This post is made possible in part by Rasmussen Travels for setting the trip up. Thank you.

My wife and I had to take a last minute trip back to Salt Lake City, and since that is a 22+ hour drive from our home, we had to stay in a hotel overnight half way between. We chose to stay at a Holiday Inn Express in Ogallala, Nebraska.

It was a new hotel, and built in a modern ascetic. Outside, it looked like a regular Holiday Inn Express, but the lobby definitely did not. The desk, and most the lobby, had minimalist lines and designs.



View of the lobby from the front door. Above: to the left, and the front desk. Below: to the right, and the public seating area


The room was sleek and modern. I especially enjoyed that there was a lounge in the room.

Standard 1 king size bedroom. Lounge in the background. View from the room door.
The staff was friendly, the breakfast was much needed, the rest provided was amazing. This stay was exactly the quality I expect from a Holiday Inn, and the convenience I expect from a Holiday Inn Express.


I look forward to staying again next week heading back home, and I recommend it to any I-80 traveller.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Great American Eclipse

This post is made possible in part by my Patreon supporters, and for Rasmussen Travels for setting the trip up. Thank you.


Before and after totality
For those who did not hear, or see, there was a total solar eclipse visible from North American soil on August 21st. It was the first solar eclipse total total solar eclipse visible in the Lower 48 since February 26, 1979, and the first total solar eclipse visible from one coast to the other since June 8, 1918. It will not be visible here again until April 8, 2024. For many American astronomers, and amateur astronomers, it was a spectacular event. It drew large crowds in those places where the total eclipse will be completely visible.

Such as Carbondale, IL. NASA, the Adler Planetarium, and SIU-C held a joint event to view the eclipse at the SIU campus. With my need to see new things, and my past as a physics student, I naturally had to see this event for myself.

My wife and I took the 4 hour trip south to see it. We were joined by one of my former IWU professors, and two of his students.

Leaving early in the morning so that we can find a place to park and stand, we arrived to find Carbondale crawling with people from all over the region to view the moon crossing the sun. Luckily we did not hit traffic too badly heading south. We parked, and hopped on the shuttle to campus.

Once we got there, Professor Perera set up his telescope and camera, and we waited for the main event. I handed out shaded glasses to everyone, and we were all able to look up at the sun and watch the moon pass over. It was a cool looking sight.

It was a clear, sunny day all day, despite concerns from the weatherman that it was going to be rainy and cloudy in the afternoon. However, once totality was nearing, the one cloud in the sky covered the sun and would not go away.


Poorly timed cloud cover.
Totality lasted just under 2 minutes and 40 seconds. That cloud hovered for more than a minute into totality. Luckily, right as I was about to give up hope for being able to see it for myself, the cloud cleared, and totality was visible. Everybody cheered. It was stunning.


Totality. Credit to Ms. Lopez, one of the group members
After it was over, we stayed to watch the moon completely clear the sun, then got dinner at a local Chile's. My wife thought she was clever (yeah, it was clever).

You can see the Corona peaking from behind the (Blue) Moon

Another 4 hour drive home, traffic being heavier than heading south, and we were home by midnight. It was a long and fulfilling day.

The total eclipse next year will be February 15, and would only be visible in southern South America. Who wants to come with?!

Or we can wait until 2024, and go back to Carbondale.