Posts from the ‘Canada’ category

Day 8: Montreal

Saturday, October 3rd, 2015

We woke up on the last day of our cruise with the sunrise again, and we were treated to a spectacular view of Montreal waking up. We had to be off the ship pretty early, so just like that, it was over, but we still had two more days to explore Montreal, and drive home.

We were super lucky that we could get in to our hotel room at 10am, and we were incredibly pleased with our hotel room! Brian and picked out Le St. Martin Hotel Particulier, and it was an excellent choice – one of the highlights of the trip. Spacious, great decor, a fireplace and a ginormous tub, with a sliding door opening up to the rest of the room. We settled in a bit, then took off to explore Montreal.

We headed straight to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, which has a wonderful collection in a cluster of lovely buildings. They have a cut-out model of Florence’s Duomo, which was pretty incredible to see. Then we headed over to the Notre-Dame Basilica, which was absolutely phenomenal. It was easily the largest of the many churches we saw this week, and the deep blues and greens of the altar and the vaulted ceiling were incredible!

After a warm croissant or two, we continued wandering around. Later in the evening, we visited another church very close to our hotel, the Basilica of Mary Queen of the World (sounds better in French). It was very beautiful and peaceful, and it had a baldacchino altar very similar (but smaller) to the one at St. Peter’s in the Vatican.

We continued our evening stroll through a neighborhood with tons of shopping and McGill students, found some dinner, then headed back to our cozy hotel to relax for the evening. We’re happy, exhausted, and ready to head home!

Day 7: Quebec City

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

The timing of the sunrise and our arrival in Quebec coincided perfectly, and I got to see the Quebec skyline in a lovely red glow first thing this morning. I also got to see the Montmorency Falls, which is something I had heard of and knew we would likely miss, but I saw the enormous waterfall at a distance as we passed Ile d’Orleans just before arriving in Quebec City.

We got off of the ship, and soon found ourselves in the very Medieval-looking square of Place Royal. It was still pretty early, so we made a few mental notes of places to visit later, and continued towards Chateau Frontenac. My boss, who knows that stairs are often my enemy, warned me about the huge stairways leading up to Frontenac, and I’m grateful for his advice to take the finicular instead – great views of harbor as we went up!

We checked out Chateau Frontenac, a massive hotel that completely dominates Quebec’s landscape, and then we wandered down the boardwalk, with lots of great views of the river. Then we spent the next few hours in our usual routine of exploring a new city by way of its churches, cafes and jewelry stores.

First, the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, then the Basilica of Notre Dame, and by that point, I was long overdue for my first crepe in Canada! Chocolate crepes make excellent lunches, and then we were on our way again. We wandered through the lovely streets, did a bit of shopping, found a lovely little art market, then turned a corner and ‘discovered’ what turned out to be one of my favorite churches of our whole trip: the Chalmers-Wesley branch of the United Church of Canada. When we stepped inside, I was struck by two things simultaneously: it was very beautiful and very very quiet. For a few precious minutes before other tourists showed up, we were alone in the church with one other guy, and it was utterly completely totally silent! It was quite a treat, and of course, so was the stained glass.

We worked our way back to the boardwalk that led back to Frontenac, back to the funicular, and back to Place Royal to check out a handful of really beautiful shops, and eventually back on to the ship to make the most of our last evening aboard the Maasdam. As I’m writing this, I’m in a café on the ship as we’re leaving Quebec, and we’re travelling along the St. Lawrence River towards Montreal … heading out in a few minutes to watch the sun set along the St. Lawrence.

Brian’s Photos:

Day 5: Charlottetown, PEI

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

I started and ended our visit to Charlottetown on the 9th deck forward where I could enjoy a panoramic view as we came and went through Charlottetown Harbor. From there, we got to see lots of Prince Edward Island’s famous red cliffs, and we enjoyed the dusty rose colored rocks, sands and soil throughout our day. The soil is red due to the iron content, and it became a lovely shade of brick red when it rained in the afternoon.

We spent a few hours in the morning exploring Charlottetown, starting with St. Dunstan’s Cathedral, which is one of C-town’s most recognizable buildings, with three spires that I stood out in the skyline as we arrived this morning. It was incredibly beautiful, and it had some of my favorite stained glass of the whole week. We wandered around a bit, past the shops on Victoria Row and down Great George Street and in to Amos Pewter to continue our shopping. I was desperately in need of a lobster roll, so we postponed our shopping til later.

We had scored a complimentary shore excursion through our travel agent, so we boarded a bus around lunchtime, and listened to a very pleasant PEI native talk us through an hour-long drive on the trans-Canada highway, through gorgeous farmland filled with lush green grass, yellow crops, and red soil. We hopped out to see Confederation Bridge, at 9 miles, the longest bridge over icy water in the world, and we also hopped out at Gateway Village for a little shopping, then back on the bus for a lovely nap on the way back to Charlottetown.

We headed straight back to Amos Pewter to make a few purchases, and we were treated to a very cool demonstration. Liquid pewter is pretty amazing, and he showed us how it becomes a solid very quickly by splashing some liquid pewter directly on to his workstation, then picking it up a moment later as a solid.

Back on the ship, we enjoyed a late-afternoon snack of the incredibly fresh PEI mussels that they were serving on the Lido Deck, then we headed to my new favorite spot on the 9th deck to watch as we headed out of Charlottetown Harbor and north towards the Gulf of St. Lawrence.


Day 4: Sydney, Nova Scotia

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

We had another day of gorgeous weather for our second day in Nova Scotia, and we were starting to wonder when our luck would give out (we would soon find out!). We enjoyed a short but sweet visit to Sydney. We wandered around, visited St. Patrick’s and St. George’s, checked out a few shops, enjoyed some lovely views of the harbor, lunched at an Irish pub with a cool patio (poutine #2), and almost got knocked over by the strong winds as we walked along the pier back to the tenders. Back on the ship, we were quite content reading our books with our feet up 🙂

Day 3: Halifax, Nova Scotia

Monday, September 28th, 2015

This morning, I got to see the reverse of what I saw as we left Boston: the sun rose on one side of the ship, while the moon was low in the sky on the other!

In Halifax, we arrived at Pier 21 and almost immediately, found a shop we had been looking forward to: Amos Pewter. It’s a local Nova Scotian company that makes pewter crafts that we both love, and we made a plan to end our day there. We walked along Halifax’s boardwalk and explored the touristy area long the pier, then spent some time wandering and hopping on and off the local tourist bus.

We got off at the Halifax Public Gardens, which were really beautiful. The weather was still absolutely incredible, so it was wonderfully peaceful to wander through bright colorful gardens. We circled the whole park, then found a spot for lunch nearby and enjoyed our first poutine in Canada!

We got back on the bus to see the rest of downtown Halifax, learned about the major explosion that shaped Halifax’s history, saw the Citadel and the clock tower, with incredible views of the harbor and the bridge that connects to Dartmouth, then Halifax’s north end, and their distinctive hydrostone buildings made from fire-resistant bricks.

Then we wandered around Murphy’s Landing, a cluster of shops at the pier that had two stores we were looking forward to: Nova Scotian Crystal and Amos Pewter. The crystal is mouth-blown hand-cut crystal, and the shop features lots of views into the workshops where big burly guys were delicately crafting, cutting and etching incredibly gorgeous crystal. Amos Pewter makes incredibly beautiful pewter, some of which is intricately etched with incredibly fine details, and some of which is polished with beautifully smooth curves, and we especially like their somewhat art deco-esque crèche set. We had our eye on a few pieces, which we purchased from the Amos Pewter shop at Pier 21 since we had learned that a portion of the sales at their shop benefit the local children’s hospital.

Back on the ship for another evening of book-reading, sunset-watching, and delightful conversation with random strangers over dinner.

Brian’s Photos:

Boston to Montreal cruise

Saturday, September 26th, 2015

cruise mapWe decided we needed a full-week vacation, and it was time to cross an item off of our bucket list so, we took a New England and Canada cruise! We loved our honeymoon cruise so much, so we booked a week on another Holland America ship, the Maasdam, then we overpacked, we charged up our cameras, and headed over to Boston Harbor!

We spent 7 days watching the sunrise at sea, exploring beautiful cities, relaxing on the ship, watching the sunset, and having lovely dinners with lovely people. It’s a pretty good way to live!

Check out this map for our itinerary: we left right from our very own harbor, which we were so excited about, then we headed up the coast of Maine, to Nova Scotia, then Prince Edward Island, around New Brunswick in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Quebec City, then down the St. Lawrence River, ended in Montreal, and drove home through Vermont and New Hampshire. Click here to see our photos!