24 – 28 June – Saint John to Quebec & Montreal

Great sights, some drama, a rival to PLOV and some thoughts

I’m now in Montreal. It’s been a fairly hectic time and I’m being accused of being a bit slack with the blog. Sorry. Surprisingly I haven’t had much time. That’s my excuse anyway!

The last “Post” ended with me feeling sorry for myself in a grotty Motel on the outskirts of Saint John, New Brunswick. It was raining cats and dogs and I couldn’t summon the enthusiasm to put on my wet weather gear and get on Azulo to find somewhere to eat and more importantly…to drink. I ended up just going to bed on a forced diet.

Sometimes on these trips you fall into a hole and wonder why on earth you are doing this. That night was one of those times. I was thinking I could be home with Merry sharing a nice glass or two of red….

Luckily the next day was sunny so I picked myself up and dusted myself down and went sightseeing!

Saint John is a nice town, settled in 1783 by the Empire Loyalists escaping from USA after the Revolution. Initially 3000 arrived, followed soon after by another 9000 and eventually 40,000.

Old Greaveyard and Square

Old Greaveyard and Square

The Old Market

The Old Market

The main attraction is the “Reversing Falls”. They have a very big tide here and a narrow entrance to the river from the Bay of Fundy. The tide sweeps water into the river from the sea. The level drops 5 metres, literally “reversing“the flow. It’s very dangerous and many have died. The birds have a field day catching fish

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The road to Quebec

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Azulo can’t believe how easy this trip is. No potholes to dodge, lots of petrol stations and places to stop!

It’s a pretty road in wooded countryside. Actually it’s not dissimilar to riding through parts of Siberia, (except for the roads etc.)

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A highlight along the way was the covered bridge at Hartland. Its 1282 feet long!

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I eventually reached the St Laurance at “Riviera du Loup” The St Laurance is wider than I thought.

Quebec Province – another world!

My first and continuing impression of French Canada is just how French it is and how hard they are trying to create “la difference”. Examples of this are the fact that I’ve yet to see an English menu… (Unlike France where they’ve somewhat reluctantly accepted inevitability and now go with the flow and provide English Menus). Also, whereas in English speaking Canada, the Canadian flag is proudly displayed everywhere and often on private homes….In Quebec you only see the Quebec flag and only on Public buildings do you see the Canadian Flag.

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This somewhat annoying trait (understandable perhaps…but to me…annoying…and I’m not Canadian!) is extended to road signs. It seems what is good for the goose ISN’T good for the Gander. In the English speaking Provinces I’ve passed through, all the road signs are in English AND French. Not so in Quebec. French only!

Having said all that I’ve found people helpful and friendly

I’m told that the separatist movement seems to have stalled. They very nearly got independence over the line with just under 50% voting for “independence” in the last Referendum some years ago. I’m told that percentage has declined to some 30% today I’m not sure why it’s gone off the boil.

Quebec City

Quebec is a simply lovely city. It’s the only walled city in North America.

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Again, following the theme about the attitudes in French Canada, you would hardly know that it was British for 100 years before Federation. That period is like “the dark ages” and best forgotten or at least given minimum exposure. There is a statue to General Wolfe (who conquered Quebec in 1759) but poor old Wolfe has to share his statue with his French opposite number, the French General Montcalm!

Wolfe seems to be regarded as some sort of monster setting fire to the City and bombarding it for weeks before the Battle that led to the annexation of Quebec. Compare this with the British view which holds him as a military hero. His statue in Westerham Kent, his home town (near Vic and Gills home) has him proudly waving his sword as they sweep the French away!

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Quebec’s Oldest House

DSC00482This beautiful wall painting is quite new. It shows the history of Quebec. Surprise surprise the “conquest” isn’t mentioned although there is a barrel in the picture which might represent Wolfe being rolled back to UK in a barrel of rum (He and Montcalm both died in the battle for Quebec. The ONLY representation of the British period is to the British Governor who saved the Wall from being demolished.

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Railway Station

Railway Station

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I really “did” Quebec. I went on the Hop on Bus, and two walks and also the Ferry!

The walk was great and we all had a chuckle at Aldo, the donkey with personality who seems to talk to all the tourists! Aldo’s yard is right in the middle of the best part of Old Quebec! He was given to the Anglican Minister for some reason

Aldo the Donkey with personality

Aldo the Donkey with personality

I went on a “gourmet food” walk which was a lot of fun and, believe it or not….

I find something ALMOST as horrible as PLOV!

Those that followed my journey through Russia and “the Stans” last year, may remember me going on (and on) about the awful food which was personified in PLOV…a concoction that I couldn’t escape for 10,000 k’s! It’s a sort of gluggy rice with tough meat and a carrot, covered in horrible gravy

My rival for the world’s most horrible dish is called Poutine. I apologise to any Canadians who may love Poutine but I really don’t know why!

Poutine is really Quebec’s answer to McDonalds. It’s just chips covered in gravy and cheese. I think it has some other ingredients too. I was perplexed that we were given this on a “GOURMET” food tour but I suppose it is seen as a “speciality” of Quebec

Poutine

Poutine

Me eating Poutine

Me eating Poutine

We did a bit of wine tasting on the tour which was interesting. Quebec has a very short ripening period so grape varieties have been cloned. The two we tried were “Seval” and “Vandal Cliché” Both white varieties. We also had some Ice Cider which was fabulous. You would love it Merry.

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My B and B in Quebec was run by a terrific guy called Pierre. He is married to an Argentinean lady and amused me by telling me of his amazing experience buying an apartment in Buenos Aires.

Me and Pierre

Me and Pierre

Pierre’s amazing story of corruption in Argentina

I relate this story as I thought it funny… although it’s a bit sad how the corruption is ruining that lovely country.

Pierre said he needed to transfer US$150,000 from Canada to Argentina to buy an apartment. The Argentinean Notary said that legally there would be a 30 % tax on the money he was bringing into the country.

The Notary then said he could avoid that tax by using the “Blue Line”….???  Apparently there are “Black, White and Blue lines.” The “White line” is the legal way, The “Black line” is for genuine crooks and the “Blue line” is for “honest” people avoiding tax!

All Pierre had to do was deposit the $150,000 in a German bank in the name of a Panamanian Company and the money would be delivered to the seller at settlement time. All for just a 5% commission

Not surprisingly, Pierre thought this sounded extremely dodgy but was assured it would be OK so he bravely transferred the $150,000 to the Panamanian Company (and crossed his fingers)

Settlement day arrived and Pierre and the seller of the apartment were in a little room outside the bank when “a man in a suit” arrived. He carried NO suitcase. The man closed the door and ROLLED UP HIS TROUSERS where $150,000 was wrapped around his legs!

Pierre said the final irony which amused him was when the man’s phone rang….the ring tone was the theme tune from the Godfather!

Pierre asked why they don’t stop this…the answer was because all the Government officials use the Blue Line too!

Another drama befalls me and I cause a big headache for the Quebec Police

Actually it was potentially a big headache for me.

Sorry..No photos of this!

I was riding to Montreal when I hit a big traffic jam. I did what I always do (which probably isn’t legal…but I’ve never had a problem)…I rode down the side lane

Well….A Police car stopped me and asked for my papers. She then sat in her car for what seemed like ages turning pages in her rule book. She then announced that my bike wasn’t legal in Quebec since I was on Australian Registration. This is of course nonsense but who am I to tell a Policewoman she is wrong?

She then called her Boss who arrived in a second Patrol car. They nattered away in French and made several calls.

Then a third Police Car arrived. Then a fourth car arrived. Then a fifth car arrived. It was a feeding frenzy. Can you imagine what passers-by must have thought?….. There’s this Aussie biker pulled over by FIVE Patrol cars. They must have thought this was a drug bust!

This drama lasted well over two hours. Eventually they decided to fine me for my sin of riding down on the side lane…. $350! (yes I was guilty but I thought $350.00 a bit harsh! Actually it started at $240 but they then added an “administration fee”

As for whether Azulo is legal or not in Quebec… They maintained my Registration isn’t valid but they would let me go anyway. Weren’t they nice!

I won’t be dodging traffic jams again!

I’ve checked as best as I can and all my papers are fine and I’m quite legal. It’s a problem though when the Police don’t know and get it wrong.

So I’m now in Montreal…later than I intended. There’s an International Jazz Festival taking place so I spent a few hours listening to the music.

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To be honest I hadn’t heard of any of the bands but I was assured they were Internationally renowned. Doubtless my good friend Bruce would know them.

St Josephs oratory. The world's third largest dome (after St Peters, Rome, St Paul's London

St Josephs oratory. The world’s third largest dome (after St Peters, Rome, St Paul’s London

 

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Rainy Day in Montreal. The Olympic Stadium

Rainy Day in Montreal. The Olympic Stadium

Tomorrow I head for Ottawa. I hope you have not been too bored by my ramblings. Congratulations if you’ve got this far!

 

We’re off and riding!

Gentleman, start your engine!

I was told they don’t say that anymore at the start of the Le Mans race! I’m showing my age again!

Anyway, Azulo is here in Halifax Canada and I picked him up on Monday 21 June and I headed out today, which is on schedule!

I must say the Air Canada folks and Customs here are terrific. After all the dreadful experiences I’ve had, just about everywhere, it was so nice to meet efficient, helpful and friendly people. The whole process took just a few minutes!

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Scott…One of the terrific guys at Air Canada Cargo

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Azulo scores a BMW box again!

Azulo must agree as he started first punch.

Going back a few steps to the beginning of my trip which actually started on 5 June and has been “full on”

First, shortly after arriving in England and being reunited with Azulo, I had a reunion with my old College mates in the South of France…One of the guys, Andrew, has a yacht in Menton near Nice. He made the mistake of asking us all down to Menton to sail the Med…That was tough! There are some photos of this adventure in the menu of the blog.

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Next I went to Scotland with my brother-in- law Cam. He wanted to search some family history.

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Finally I spent a few days in Kent with Vic and Gill and to finalise Azulo’s flight to Nova Scotia…..

Vic is part of a ukulele group that plays every second Sunday in the Pub. They have a great time as you see.

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The next night Vic and Gill were competing in a boule competition at the local Cricket ground. They lost handsomely but it was a lovely English evening watching boule and cricket with a “lazy Pint or two”

 

Gill showing her skills

Gill showing her skills

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It was sad saying goodbye again to Vic and Gill. They’ve been terrific hosts to Azulo.

I arrived Thursday 18th and did some of the sights in Halifax. My time and the rain meant I just did the Marina and the Citadel, both of which are excellent

The Citadel is a grand old British Fort. The French would have had no chance of taking it and even the Americans thought better of it….. All the guides were in Mackenzie Tartan kilts which interested me since my mother was a Mackenzie (I’m sure your fascinated with that piece of information!) Apparently the Nova Scotia Regiment was founded by the Mackenzie’s.

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Ive got more photos but they are on my phone and won’t seem to email…I’ll have to call Stuart!!!!

In case you don’t know, Nova Scotia has a very strong Scottish connection and in many respects reminds me of the south of the South Island of New Zealand which also has a strong Scottish connection. Most of the towns however have ENGLISH names…e.g. Halifax, Cambridge, Truro etc. Hardly a Scottish name in sight!

Over the weekend I drove around Nova Scotia. It’s very beautiful with lots of lakes, inlets and quaint towns. Saturday was beautiful and I spent time in the lovely little town of Lunenburg where I had fish and chips to die for…

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Then Shelburne which was founded by the Empire Loyalists …. They were the folks who left USA after the revolution and wanted to stay British. Again, a quaint and historical town

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Further on you get to the Arcadian area…This was originally French but they got kicked out by the British and were sent packing to Louisiana. I’m sure someone will make a comment about my history lesson!

That night I stayed at my first Airbnb at Clyde River near Barrington about three hours from Halifax. It was wonderful. The hostess, Patricia was very welcoming and cooked me dinner.

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My first Airbnb with Patricia in her lovely home in Clyde River

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I had my first “drama”…More an annoyance really. My new Nokia Windows phone had an update so I pressed install and the update stuck and made the phone unusable. This is annoying since I use “Here Maps” as a GPS (it’s brilliant and uses off line maps…highly recommended!)

If you followed my blog on my last trip you may remember I lost all my GPS maps in Kazakhstan. My son Stuart in Australia came to the rescue and guided my over Skype on how to download new maps. He was seeing what was on my PC screen through the iPad camera!

Anyway, he came to the rescue again and sorted out the phone! What would I do without his help!

On Sunday it rained all day. I returned to Halifax and stayed near the Airport at my second Airbnb. This one is with a young family, Jackie and Fraser, their six year old son Levi, cat (Simon) and dog (Border Collie named Rudi) Simon the cast rules the house as you see in the photo!

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They are very friendly, hospitable and easy going. I feel at home here

Jackie, Fraser, Levi, Rudi (dog) and the boss...Simon(Cat) in their lovely home in Waverley

Jackie, Fraser, Levi, Rudi (dog) and the boss…Simon(Cat) in their lovely home in Waverley

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I like Airbnb and will try and use it throughout the trip. My alternative is Camping (ugh) or cheap lonely hotels/roadhouses.

The journey begins! Azulo is packed and keen to get going

Fraser decided to ride with me to the Digby Ferry (to Saint John) some 250 k from Halifax. Needless to say it was drizzling at 6.20 when we left but cleared.

 

Levi adding the Canadian Flag sticker

Levi adding the Canadian Flag sticker

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I caught the Ferry and am now in Saint John

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I’m now in Saint John…unfortunately its pouring with rain again. Poor Azulo looks sadly into the Motel room!

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Thanks you all for your comments…Bye for now!

Next stop Quebec City!

 

 

 

Canada & USA – Here comes Azulo

It’s nearly time! Azulo and I are about to set out on our 2015 adventure through Canada and USA!

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My journey starts in Halifax Nova Scotia and ends in Los Angeles. (the red line in the map) I then meet Merry and we begin the much more luxurious part of the journey! (the blue line. The purple is airplane flights) This holiday includes a 9 day cruise of the Alaskan Inside Passage then a car journey through Canada and USA to Denver. Azulo should be on the water at that time heading home to Australia

If you’re viewing my blog for the first time, Azulo is my trusty Kaweasaki KLR 650. Since finishing the ride from Vladivostok to London in 2014, Azulo has been resting in the garage of my good friends Vic and Gill in the beautiful Kent countryside

Azulo was picked up on 15 June and waved goodbye by Vic and Gill. He then hopefully flies to Halifax where I hopefully pick him up. The….off we go!

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Azulo about to leave. Gill looks on sadly. The good news is they get their garage back!

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I hope you will again join me on my journey. If you want to get an email to let you know I have added a new post, all you need do is enter you email address in the side panel where it says “subscribe”  That is an incorrect word as you are not subscribing to anything other than to receive an email! You can unsubscribe any time.

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Bye for now!