Friday, August 13, 2010

Quebec & Montreal

So, once we learned about the free Cirque-du-Soleil show in Quebec City, we decided to stay a few more days, but not at the roadside trailer park. Instead, we moved up to the beautiful campground at Mont Saint Anne, which had been booked solid for the weekend, but could take us in starting Sunday. It was such a relief to hear only the sounds of the brook, wind and birds instead of racing motors. As I mentioned last entry, there was no internet there, but there was a Salle de Fartage, so that's always a plus:

And finally, we found fruit and vegatable stands, strangely absent in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Also strange is that both strawberries and sweet corn are in season at the same time, so we took full advantage:

I did some more riding during the day, and then Tuesday night we drove back into Old Quebec to see the Cirque show: Les Chemins Invisibles. From the highway overpass on the ride in it looked like no one was even lining up yet, so we took our time, parked, strolled over, stopping for a soft serve, and arrived under the overpass to find: a massive line of people waiting for the gates to open. We thought: No way everyone's fitting in there, and as we stood the line grew and grew until it was at least a city block long and 10 people deep. But, the gates opened and it was standing room only - no seating whatsoever, so the space absorbed the whole throng. If you've never been to a Cirque du Soleil show, you're missing out - they really are amazing, and worth the high ticket prices. This is a special free show they've set up only in Quebec, and just an hour long, but the same high level of skill and entertainment. They had a small scale spinning erector-set contraption that they guy jumps around on while it spins:

And the freaky chinese girls bending themselves in backwards U's while in a handstand, always a crowd pleaser:

And the crazy otherworldly sets with acrobats dangling all over the place, fire jugglers, becostumed stilt walkers, etc...

So satisfied we left Quebec City and drove across the province to Montreal. As we got closer to the city the landscape changed from endless corn fields, to endless industrial park complexes, and then endless urban sprawl. The traffic got very bad, mostly due to major road construction. The closer we got to our destination of Campground Domaine de Bel Age in Mercier, the worse it got. Finally we arrived, and it was not an impressive place, hardly one we could say we were relieved to settle in to. But, it worked out OK. We kept hearing what sounded like shotgun shots at regular intervals, thankfully not quite near or loud enough to reduce Toby to a quivering, drooling mess, but audible nonetheless. I decided that the source was bird scarers at the nearby corn fields: automated blank gun shells fired at intervals to frighten away birds and other pests.

We went into the city of Montreal in the late afternoon and evening, and really enjoyed it. It's huge and spread out, but has a nice downtown, old city, and port. Its well set up for pedestrian and cyclists, and also has a network of underground walkways in addition to a modern subway system. In the bitter Canadian winters the residents can walk to work underground and not have to dress for a trip to the summit of Everest.

Here is a shot of the city taken from a clock tower in the port:

OK, I see a lot of chickens and chicken parts, but what the HELL is that thing in the middle???

Scenes of downtown and Old Montreal:

They have these Bixi bikes docked at rental stations all over downtown. You pay $5 and get a code to unlock a bike, ride it around, and return it to any dock in town. Its a great system, and after a nice meal at a tapas place with two-for-one mojitos, we couldn't resist taking a little spin around the port:

So, it was a good experience in Montreal, and so we left Canada on a good note, crossing the border today back into the good ol' USA. We had a beautiful drive through the islands in Lake Champlain, and took the Whale to Burlington, VT, where we bought it, to have the water heater fixed, as it no longer operated on propane. They took care of it right away, and we drove on again to a nice, quiet campground in Saint Johnsbury, Vermont, not far from Kingdom Trails, where I'll do some nice mountain bike trail riding tomorrow.

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