Saturday, November 22, 2008

Quebec and Beyond - North American Tour 2008 Part 8, 17 - 20 June

We said goodbye to our hosts, and to New York, and set out on the road to Quebec. Three hours later we were at the Canadian border and I was recalling that I had forgotten to stash my numerous boxes of cigars somewhere out of sight.

Getting into Canada is, not surprisingly, easier than getting into the US, but they still stop you and ask you potentially embarrassing questions, such as, "Do you have any tobacco products with you?"

I told her I didn't, and if she glanced into the back seat to see the pile of Henry Clay, Excalibur and H. Upman boxes, she never said.

Two and a half hours later we were at the Comfort Inn, in Levis, just across the river from Quebec. I have to say--and they can bring their lawyers out if they want but I will not retract--that the Levis Comfort in was a piece of crap compared with the other places we stayed. I posted this on the travel website but, for some reason, it disappeared:

Levis; all the ambiance of Bayonne

The Comfort Inn in Levis was a mean little place. Everything extra, aside from the bed and the room, had to be paid for with an extra fee, even Internet access and the 'complimentary' coffee n your room if you wanted a second cup (there was no tea available). There was even a bottle of water on the dresser with a note stating that, if you drank it, they would charge you
$2.99. All of this is free in other hotels.

The area surrounding the hotel was a casualty of sprawling roads and unimaginative brick structures and had all the charm of a strip mine.

The only good thing about it was, it was near enough to Quebec to allow easy (well, sort of) access to the ferry. Quebec was lovely.

It really didn't matter, we weren't there for Levis, we were there for Quebec, and as soon as we could we left for the ferry.

Quebec, as promised, was a lovely little city, and is the closest to a European capital you can get without the assistance of a jet liner. We had a good nose around, ate dinner at a Creperie and meandered back to the ferry and Levis.

But the less said about Levis, the better.

If you stay at the Comfort Inn at Levis, bring your own water, and coffe.

Quebec: all the disadvantages of being in Europe (coach tours,
unintelligible language, foreign tourists, strange food) with none of
the actual culture, grandeur or antiquity.

A mark of an important country is how well-guarded your parliament is.

The next morning we headed further east and it was interesting to see how European Quebec looked even on the outskirts, where they had somehow managed to make it as ugly and unappealing as Calais.

While on the road, we stopped at our old friend, Tim Horton's, where I attempted to order coffee and a muffin from a French-speaking clerk. The only thing I have to say about that experience is, it convinced me to not stop for lunch until we reached New Brunswick, where they are legally obligated to speak English.

We spent the rest of the French-speaking portion of our journey playing "Guess What the Road Signs Mean." One, I am certain, translated to: "Remain on the fender of your mother."

Quebec is a large province, certainly large enough to be its own country, which, of course, is what it wants to be. Splitting away from the rest of Canada, however, would isolate New Brunswick and Nova Scotia from the mainland, though I expect their aim is to take them with it. After all, why else would Nova Scotia and New Brunswick be so keen on practicing their French?

Eventually, we reached New Brunswick and the little town of Grand Fall that had, for some reason, captivated us when we were booking the trip. We flew 3,000 miles and drove another 2,500 to get to get there and all they had was a hydroelectric dam. Give them their due, the rapids, thanks to the recent rains, were impressive, and the gorge was very picturesque.

They call it Grand Falls because Grand Hydro-Electric
Dam didn't have the same pleasant ring to it.

Okay, the gorge was kinda cool.

We stayed in the local Best Western, a well-appointed hotel with an alarmingly perky clerk. Besides watching the water cascade over the dam, there wasn't a lot to do in town, so we picked up dinner at Subway, ate in our room and left the following morning not feeling as if we had missed anything.

It was a long way back to Halifax. We picked up breakfast at Tim's (where I was pleased to find the staff not pretending they couldn't understand any other language than French) and spent the next six hours looking at pine trees.

The drive was broken up by a visit to The Magnetic Hill--an optical illusion that makes it seem as if your car is rolling uphill instead of downhill. There is one in
Girvin, where some of my wife's family lives in Scotland, but they don't make a big deal out of it. Here, there is a theme park built around it and, by the size of the parking lots, they must get a huge number of people in season. We just drove through and took some photos of the theme park; the actual Hill is probably hidden away and requires an initiation and payment to visit it.

A few hours later we were back in familiar territory. We checked into the same hotel we had left a week earlier and returned to Montana's for one last Yee-Ha meal.

The next morning we checked out and had a quiet, last look around Halifax. In the afternoon, after an uncharacteristically warm and sunny day, we returned to the

Hours of fun, bring the kids.

When we returned to Halifax, we found the tourist season
(complete with pirates) had started during our absence.
Avast, me beauties! Prepare to be boarded!

Pirates in the mist.

After I took this photo, the security officer had a word with me.

The next morning, when we landed, it was, naturally, raining.

Welcome to Britain..

Next: We return to our regularly scheduled broadcasts.


  1. mike, interesting travelogue, good pics.

  2. Thanks. I started this series back in July, chronicling my bi-yearly visit to my native land. I didn't expect it to cover 8 chapters and 4 months, but I'm glad I finished it, even if it did bore a lot of my regular readers.

    The rest of the series is at:

  3. Great commentary, if you had, had a British accent you would have probably had an easier time in Quebec..........(not saying any more, could go on and on and honestly it woul dbe a total waste of my time!!)

    Gill in Canada