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June 2022

Slowly we approached the metropolitan area of eastern Canada where you find the highest population density. The cities of Toronto, Ottawa, Montréal and Quebéc are neatly lined up. Since we are actually less interested in the cities, we had chosen to only pay a visit to Québec and Montréal.

The capital of Québec – Ville de Québec is considered the most beautiful city in North America and is the only walled city north of Mexico. For us finding a good overnight place in cities is always a task, but in Québec we had found a great place within walking distance of the old town. At least, that’s what we thought, until the freight train arrived at 2:30 in the morning and started piling its containers…

After this sleepless night, a walk of about 35 minutes through the Parc des Champs-de-Bataille brought us to La Citadelle, where they were just preparing the festival site and the grandstands for the big holiday “Fete nationale du Québec” on June 24.

The moment we passed through the city walls we were back in Europe. Québec City is not out of place in the list of Lyon, Grenoble or Paris…that the French had left their mark on this region we knew, but not that it would be a one-to-one copy.

The city is also the stronghold of the separatists, who from time to time demand the independence of their province from Canada. Even more recently, a new law was passed that drastically restricts the teaching of English in Québec’s schools. Also all public services will be French-only. We can imagine that this does not necessarily meet with the approval of English-speaking Québecers.

So we walked through the narrow streets of the old town “Vieux-Québec”, which in 1985 was the first city in North America to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After a lunch in the sun next to our camper van, we continued our way southwest, leaving Québec City on the old Highway 138. The route winds slowly through the green countryside and we soon realized that this is an area, in which the Canadian jetset must be living. One house is even bigger than the next and all with balconies overlooking the Saint Lawrence River.

We had been playing with the idea of finally eating ice cream for a while and the village of Deschambault was favourable for us. We found a tiny café with delicious ice cream made from local plum and rhubarb.

Then it was time for the first “metropolis” on this trip. We approached Montréal during evening rush hour and did not escape participating in the daily traffic jam on the highway around this city.  Still relatively quiet, we found a place to spend the night facing the skyline on the other side of the Saint Lawrence River.

In particular, the subway system is what makes this city special. Montréal’s residents are proud of their underground, and not just as a means of transportation. A mile-long tunnel system connects the inner city underground with entrances to the subway network. Apartment complexes in the suburbs also have underground access to the metro network so that you can ‘go outside’ without a coat for a day’s shopping or commuting in the city center. Especially in winter where temperatures of -25C are no exception, this makes life a whole lot more comfortable.

We first indulged ourselves with a visit to the city’s home mountain and namesake, Mont Royal. From this 210-meter-high peak you have a nice overview of how the city stretches across the flat land. There are not many high-rise buildings. Because of this vastness, downtown stretches further than expected. The subway was therefore the best option for us to eventually arrive in Vieux-Montréal.

The old city with the great cathedral of Notre Dame had little else to offer us. Old buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries alternate with modern architecture, it’s an interesting mix but somehow we were already done with big cities and wanted to return to nature. So we left Montréal and continued our journey towards Lake Ontario in the province of the same name. 

Eddy and Romy van Es © 2020, All Rights Reserved.

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