We so loved our tour of Ontario, and the time we spent in the Maritimes, we thought it was high time we visited the Province nestled between the two, Quebec. We were visiting friends in New York, and it’s only a few hundred miles north to the border, so north we headed. Through the rolling hills of upstate New York, we passed Schroon lake, Lake George, Lake Champlain. We couldn’t really see them for the forest, but we knew they are there.
Our first stop, Montreal is the second largest city in Canada, and the second largest French speaking City, after Paris. It was with some trepidation that we made this trip. We are not fans of big cities and all the attendant crowds, traffic and general hassles and we were going to be in two big ones, Montreal and Quebec. Plus there was the French issue. We’d heard all kinds of stories about the Province of Quebec and their French first debates, but armed with my rusty high school french and a dictionary, we showed our passports and crossed the border into Canada, anxious to explore the good things we’d heard about Montreal.
We had reservations at the Montreal South KOA in St. Philippe. We chose this campground because they were fifteen miles away from the city, in a more rural area, so we would be well away from the city proper. They offered a daily shuttle to the visitors center in the heart of Montreal, so we would not have to drive. They were also bilingual, eliminating the need to subject them to my halting, inadequate attempts at French. We crossed the border uneventfully and located our campground without too much trouble, The signs were all in French but PH20 is PH20 in any language. The camp is big, has many seasonal Quebecers and the friendly staff helped us plan our day trip into the big city. We settled on a double deck bus that toured the whole city, but let the passengers hop off and on wherever they like. We just had to make sure we “hopped” on the last one in time to make it back to the visitors center for our ride home.
We took the campground shuttle to the visitors center and found our tour bus. The first stop was Vieux Montreal (the old city) and since this was where we wanted to spend most of our time we got right off. We spent the morning doing the walking tour, seeing the sites and enjoying the beautiful old buildings that dated back to the 17th and 18 century. We had a leisurely lunch of onion soup and mussels at Papillion and were back on the tour bus by two. The beautiful weather of the morning turned overcast and cool for our tour of the rest of the city. It was a great overview of Montreal and the drivers were helpful in pointing out the sights and suggesting places to get off. Our favorite stop was Mount Royal park, with its spectacular views of the city laid out at our feet. We discovered the park was designed by Frederick Olmstead, the famous, and very busy, landscape designer in the early 1800′s. He also designed Central Park in New York City, the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, South Carolina and the Chicago Worlds Fair. We arrived back at the visitors center with a half an hour to spare, filled with the sights of Montreal. French was not an issue anyplace but a Tim Horton’s where we stopped for some coffee and we muddled through that with no problem.
We had planned a drive to the surrounding mountains for the next day. Mont Blanc and Mount Tremblant looked like a nice day trip, but the weather did not cooperate. We woke to pouring rain, not good for driving, not good for going back into the city. We spent the day holed up in the RV catching up on reading, bills and emails. The forecast was for more of the same, so we rearranged our schedule and left early. The big advantage to traveling in an RV is that you can be flexible in your planning. Our next stop was to be a week at Lac St. Jean, a large lake well north of Montreal. Our bus guide the day before told us there is nothing there but the Lake, and no english is spoken, only french. I guess we’ll get to try out that high school french after all. We decided to reserve the site for just four days, in case it wasn’t what we expected.