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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This post is an entry to a contest put on by Celebrity Cruises. They are not paying me for this entry, and in no way have sponsored, endorsed, or have administered me to have written this post.
Celebrity Cruises has issued a contest for bloggers to describe our perfect Caribbean vacation based on their Caribbean cruise ports. As one who loves the Caribbean, I took them up on this challenge.
The itinerary I am building is a 12 night cruise, and is loosely based on their Lesser Antilles cruises and their Dutch Antilles Caribbean cruises. Why? Well, because most of the following ports of call are on my bucket list to explore.
We would come a couple days early, check into a hotel, and spend some time exploring the city. Honestly, the entire island of Puerto Rico fascinates me. I seem to be drawn to water based urban locations, and one that has a unique blend of American, Spanish, and Latin American influences is more than enough to entice me to come see.
I would want to visit St. Croix because I have been interested in the US Virgin Islands since I learned of US overseas territories. In my youth, I knew Puerto Rico was “something like a state, but not?” but had no idea of places like the Virgin Islands or Guam, etc. Learning of the Virgin Islands was an eye opener to a whole new concept that I wish to explore.
When we are not drinking local rum, we would be walking the streets of Christiansted. I would explore the historic centre of the town and learn more about their Dutch influence. Honestly, I am not as well versed in Dutch culture as I am with English and French, so I would be out of my wheel house on this. We would try the local cuisine, and see if we could find a live band that plays some calypso or soca if we do not have to embark too soon.
The next disembarking would be truly a culture shock to me: Philipsburg, St. Maarten. This would be my first location where we would need our passports being American citizens, and as I said before, I am not as familiar with Dutch culture and its descendants. To be perfectly honest, we would probably gravitate towards the French side of the island.
Since we would prefer the French side of the island, we would naturally visit Marigot. There, as most destinations of ours, we would explore the streets and see what we would find.
Celebrity Cruise excursions I would wish to experience here:
Purely my own exploration.
While our original honeymoon plan was Québec, as we were planning, one of the places we mentioned wanting to go was Martinique. Since planning, it has remained on my bucket list places to visit. Martinique is an overseas region of France, meaning that it shares equal power and privileges of regions in mainland France, and thus, uses the Euro as its currency. Being France, we will again get to use our, albeit limited, French skills. Of all days, this will be the day I would be most looking forward to.
This would be our last British culture destination. The port is in St. George’s. Like most cuisines in the Caribbean, it is seafood based and spicy. We would have to try the Oil Down dish (a dish that reminds me of New Orleans Cajun food, as it is with okra, bread fruit, and chicken) while listening to a local soca or calypso band. We would also try to visit the Catholic cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
While it is certainly not the first Dutch land we would have stepped foot on in this trip, Bonaire does not have a French side like St. Maarten does, so it would be the first Dutch land we get to properly explore. Whereas St. Maarten is an equal partner in the Kingdom of the Netherlands with the Netherlands, Bonaire is a “public body,” or something similar to an overseas territory to the Dutch kingdom.
The disembarking happens in Kralendijk, the capital of Bonaire. As we would walk up and down the downtown area, we would try to visit Wilhelmina Park and Fort Oranje.
Curaçao, like St. Maarten, is an equal partner with the Netherlands in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. As the city centre is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, we would have to visit it, first among which I would visit would be Fort Amsterdam. I am quite fond of the drink that carries this country as a namesake, so visiting distilleries that make it such as Senior & Co. would be a highlight.
Of course Aruba takes up the last destination before coming back, and not just because it makes sense geographically. It has a spot on my bucket list to visit. The port is in the capital, Oranjestad, a city whose beauty is a major attraction, and I am chomping at the bit to see it for myself. The architecture alone of the downtown is picturesque and stunningly gorgeous. I would visit Fort Zoutman, and try to get some pineapple seafood.
Since this day is a day spent at sea to head back to Puerto Rico, we would spend the day trying out the features of the cruise ship. Since we would have spent the last 11 days eating Caribbean food, I myself would probably be burned out on that cuisine, and would try to find myself a pizza. I have to be honest, right? After a week and half of rum, I would also head towards the gastropub (though that usually only found on Bahaman trips, not southern Caribbean. Ideal cruise, remember) for some beer.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
After returning to San Juan, we would stay another day in the city. We would be too exhausted to do any more exploring, so we would find a nice ocean-view restaurant, and enjoy a romantic meal overlooking the seas before going to bed.
For those trying to keep track of our activities, what I included in the itinerary for a single day would be way too much. This just means that I would need to come back to these locations after this trip is over, and explore further.
As my wife was driving to Peoria today with me in the car, we both mentioned that we do not understand how people can say that everywhere else in the world is so beautiful, and Illinois is so boring and lacks beauty. Clearly, these people have never been here. Ironically, the people who say this are those who have been born and raised here in Illinois.
Bloomington-Normal to Peoria is a short drive, and a common commute distance. Yet the shades of green in just the short drive are phenomenal and very diverse. Not to mention the yellow prairie flowers that occasionally break through the green background.
Being a mostly rural state, there is a lot of agriculture that dominates the landscaping. So, yes, hours of hours of corn and beans as far as the eye can see definitely gets boring to look at. Yet, the ground is hilly, providing shadows and contrast. No, we are not as hilly as the mountain lands, but we are not as flat as say Nebraska and Kansas, etc. The land is criss-crossed with rivers and streams, not to mention bordered by the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. There is also a fair number of lakes and ponds peppered throughout, also bordered to the northeast by Lake Michigan (not just Chicago and suburbs!). With water means trees and flora. With flora means deer, large birds, and other megafauna.
Outside of Chicago, there are a number of small towns. No, I do not mean Bloomington-Normal or Peoria. I do not even mean Pontiac! There are a lot of towns with no more than a couple thousand people. These are the towns where the bars are going to be the go to places. They may only have a bar to visit, other than a post office. The bars are going to have a “dive” feel to them, and are going to be patroned by farmers or other blue collar workers. If you ever want to know what is going on in small town America, these bars are the place to be.
The architecture here is 100% Americana. Small farm houses painted with muted colours, surrounded by picket fences. Water towers in the distance. Downtowns with rows of two story buildings, dating to the 1800s, early 1900s. Time moves slowly here. It would be similar to Missouri and Iowa, and other cornbelt states.
This song as good shots of what I mean:
I never expect Central Illinois to be a touristy location, not by a long shot. But just because it is not the busy urban life, nor the majestic mountains, nor the beautiful sea, does not mean that it does not have beauty. For those who do not live in small town Illinois, or even small town America, go out and spend a day in a town no larger than 10,000 people. Enjoy the small shops, the diners and bars where every patron and staff member know each other. Enjoy the Americana for what it is, and not the idealised caricature of it at Disneyland or Broadway. For those who do live here, spend a day to enjoy the beauty that surrounds you. I am well aware of how boring it can get, but a lot of that boredom stems not actually seeing the surroundings because we are blinded by being surrounded by it.