An evening drive in Banff

IMG_0114 IMG_0107

IMG_0117 IMG_0121 IMG_0134 IMG_0137 IMG_0146 IMG_0151

The sun sets around 8:45 in the evening here in Banff so I set out around 7:30 for a quick drive around some of the scenic spots. Immediately after leaving the car park I ran across the two deer pictured above (there were several more off the road beyond the range of my portable camera). I then drove around the Vermilion Lakes just outside of the town center and then ended the day with a short hike up Tunnel Mountain.

Oh Calgary

Sunrise from my hotel room

The volcano debacle continues and while there are some nice upsides (read: skiing in Banff) I am getting more and more concerned on how long this situation will remain in effect. Currently I have a seat on a BA flight to London but it isn’t until Saturday the 24th (9 days after my originally scheduled flight) and no one sounds very sure whether “that dog will hunt.” I also have an unconfirmed flight on Lufthansa a few days earlier but that is indirect and sounds even less likely. Those conventional methods aside, I will soon have to start looking at flying to somewhere in Europe outside the dust cloud and driving back to England. It will be a LONG drive but it’s seeming more and more attractive.

The "Oh Canada" Trip

IMG_8888

Upon arriving in Montreal things took an immediate turn for the better … not only were we able to purchase the always delicious “Oh Henry” bar but critically we were able to take into possession one of the prized “Oh Canada” limited edition models. Not one to pass this off as a simple accident we could tell that the fates were beaming on us and we slept with high hopes for our first morning in Montreal.

IMG_8920

Rather than map out Montreal ourselves we dropped down to the local bus tour company and hopped on board. First stop was the impressive Notre-Dame Basilique. Lighting made picture taking a difficult task without a tripod (which I had decided I was too lazy to bring on this trip). This picture though gives a good feeling of what the interior of the main hall looks like.

IMG_8942 IMG_8961

Regretfully the rest of the bus tour was making us question whether we indeed had taken possession of the golden “Oh Canada” bar the night before or whether it had been some sort of cruel illusion. First of all the weather was a very humid 90+ degrees Fahrenheit. Damn global warming! Second, the bus drivers quaint sense of humor quickly changed to dull, monotonous drivel that was repeated word for word in English and then French. Finally, and I regret saying this, Montreal is just not that great a city.  Don’t get me wrong, IMG_8975it’s a fine place to shop, its a reasonable place to eat, a marginal place to see a play, etc. but it is just “ok” at a lot of things and not great at anything. To prove this point — I shit you not — the bus tour actually spent four city blocks telling us about the wonders of Montreal’s outdoor staircases. Huh? Well it makes sense when you realize that you’ve run out of things to  see at the 40 minute mark.

IMG_8992

Quebec City followed Montreal on our agenda and also served as a great counter balance. Quebec City — and even more so the old city — is far smaller than Montreal but also far more interesting and pretty. In appropriate fashion we’d traded in Montreal’s oppressive heat for a warm but comfortable day basked in IMG_9000 sunshine and blue skies. Instead of a bus tour we took a horse and carriage tour. We laughed, we cried but on this trip we primarily laughed in Quebec and cried in Montreal.

IMG_8980

On a side note, the hotel we stayed in — the Hotel Dominion — is a great location, good service, and moderate pricing makes it great value for money. Finally, since the French – and consequently the French Canadians – aren’t big fans of egg breakfasts (or anything much other than a croissant) the Dominion is conveniently located across the IMG_9049street from a proper breakfast joint where all your egg and waffle dreams will come true. 

The next “real” stop on our trip was Saint Andrews but since the drive was too long we added in a stop in the industrial town of Edmundston. The town is nothing to write home about but we were lucky enough to stay at a top notch B&B and got the R&R we were looking for. If you’re in the area, look up Sylvie at the Au Chalet Bed and Breakfast. The picture to the right was taken with a telephoto from my bedroom and focuses on the paper/pulp plant in town that is the source of most of the employment in town.

IMG_9216 Saint Andrews is a small, quaint town by the ocean. The Algonquin hotel and golf course have been a draw for wealthy Canadians for decades where the rest of the town has been a respite for slightly less advantaged travelers. More recently the town is starting to gain in overall wealth and real estate prices heading north. We stayed at a lovely B&B on the ocean called the Treadwell Inn. Best food on Water street (IMG_9251_Panoramaaka, the main drag) and the suite has ocean views, lots of space,  and a personal jacuzzi for less than $200 a night!  As for the Rossmount Inn — where we were originally meant to stay — don’t even get me started. What a cluster-fuck. More on that later.

I included a picture of a church from Saint Andrews because it is such a prominent feature in town. It seems like every 10 houses has another church next to it. Apparently this is related to the town’s history as an outpost for the “loyalists” (aka, the American settlers who were still loyal to England during/after the American war of Independence).

IMG_9453 After Saint Andrews our final stop was a meander through Maine (and a bit of New Hampshire and Vermont). Unfortunately we got there a bit too early for peak foliage season (that apparently happens in about 10 days) but we did get some nice colors and we were all blown away  by natural beauty everywhere. I IMG_9491will say the number of “moose warnings” we got started to feel like false advertising after two days of trying to find one of the critters and eventually settling for a picture of a sign instead. Ahh well, you can’t have it all but here again we hit B&B paydirt. Located by Rangeley lake, the Pleasant Street B&B is a great place to setup camp. Good location, everything is new, lots of space, heated floors, satellite television, WIFI, a common computer, a common fridge, two common living rooms for guests, good breakfast, and Jan and Rob make very accommodating and friendly hosts.