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!

 

31 thoughts on “24 – 28 June – Saint John to Quebec & Montreal

  1. Hi Geoff, Great to again have another comfortable armchair ride with you on the
    back of Azulo. I am sure your superb touched up photos must be better than the
    real thing. Your comments re the Reversing Falls reminds me of the exciting ride
    we had through the horizontal water fall in the Kimberley.
    Hope you continue to have exciting adventures.

    Cheers, Noel

  2. Phil is always very tolerant of my home cooking and loves trying new dishes, but when I showed him your photo of poutine he turned rather green! The proper authentic dish uses cheese curds rather than cheese so your arteries and taste buds may not forgive you that one for a while. As usual your photos and stories keep us hooked til the end. The corruption scheme in Argentina sounds a minefield to negotiate! Can’t wait for the next installment. Karen x

  3. I’m surprised that you don’t like Poutine, its just chips and gravy but with cheese too. The one I had in Toronto made me feel like my arteries were hardening as I ate it, but it was still pretty tasty. Maybe you had a bad one.

  4. Hi Geoff, your pictures are as usual fantastic, and the text makes a good read. The thought of you surrounded by all those police cars impressed us no end as we had not realised that you were so dangerous. Maybe they just wanted to admire Azulo and meet a “mad” Australian biker. We are sunning ourselves in the Channel Islands on an island where there is no traffic allowed, but we make sure we can tune in to the next part of your adventures. Go well, Alan and Wendy

    • As a PS, Geoff, although it’s gourmet dining on Herm we mentioned Poutine to the chef and he’s taken to the bottle in deep shock. Apparently it’s translated to “Mushy Mess” and the Chef thought we were using the term to describe his cooking. Actually, I bet those French Canadian Cops had Poutine for their lunch – that’s why they were so hard on you. Keep up the food sampling; I wonder what your next “heart attack in a bowl” tastes like.

  5. Great read. I love that covered bridge – always wanted to drive through one of those. I enjoyed the story about getting money into Argentina. The guy with the cash attached to his legs sounds as if he could be a member of a Lodge! The Canadian police don’t seem much fun, and I would heed Merry’s comment about waving and riding on! Next post, please.

  6. Hellooo Geoff,
    Where did you get that lovely red yachting cap? Last time I enquired here it may??? have cost $550. AUD???

  7. Quebec City looks fantastic, Geoff, thanks for all the wonderful photos…you are inspiring us to travel to Canada before too long !!
    Hasn’t taken you long to have some drama ….at least the police weren’t “skulking ” in the bushes this time !!!
    What a pity it wasn’t a photo opportunity.
    Love,
    Wendy and Rod.

  8. Hi Geoff,
    Great photos once again!
    It seems that police are the same all the world over – Blatant revenue raising from innocent Aussie Bikers!
    What a crying shame – if you wan’t us to picket the Canadian and/or French Consulate, let us know.
    Safe riding.
    Looking forward to our next golf outing on your return.
    Cheers
    Rob

  9. Oh, and another thing. Don’t try the South American “drive-by and friendly wave” method to the police in that part of the world! You may end up with a lot of bullet holes!!! Xx. M

  10. Can’t believe you aren’t a big fan of poutines! Just think French-Canadian nachos (or maybe cheesy chips). Sounds great (and vive la difference!). Jenny & Bruce

  11. Well done Geoff. Nice photos but your treatment by the frog flics is a bit disappointing for a so called civilised country

  12. Great pics again Geoff………… love Quebec…the walled part particularly.Have a framed etching
    of the Chateau, nearly identical to the one you have sent! My eldest daughter lives in Toronto…
    married to a Canadian for 20 yrs., they lived in Whistler , Vancouver before that. Have been so many times, lost count. Wonderful country and people, beautiful scenery. Only downside… we
    got violent food poisoning from chicken at Montreal airport many years ago. The history is very
    interesting about Quebec city. Keep up the good work, keep safe, enjoy.

  13. Terrific descriptions and photos as always, Geoff. And never boring, how could you even think it! After your wild adventures in South America and Siberia and the Stans, this trip must seem like a breeze to both you and Azulo. Leaving aside your hefty traffic fine! Hope you did not have to pay it on cash. And eating Poutine! I’m sure the French would have a very low opinion of that dish, as they do of the French-Canadian accent! Safe and enjoyable travels. Muis.

  14. Thanks for the update.
    No pressure please, otherwise it would spoil the entire journey.
    Your police matter made me think what might be the best way/s to avoid or at least minimise this?? i.e travelling on a diplomatic passport perhaps and claim immunity, or any other deceptive devise that may ‘frighten off’ or at least deter these officials who see a soft target in mc travellers?
    Any thoughts?
    You should have plenty of time being on ze bike to mull-over.

    Stay up-right, happy and un-pressured
    Axel

  15. Not boring, Geoff. Fascinating. You may be interested to know that when we lived in Edmonton, Alberta (35 years ago), the locals were always grizzling about the fact that their road signs were required by law to be in two languages (no-one spoke French) but the signs in Quebec were in one language only – French! A sore point right across the country, even then.

  16. Hi Geoff. Looks like a pretty city.
    Think the police bit seems quite mad. You should have had a breadstick on board.

    Shirley

  17. About time! Great blog and pics again. I hope the police “administration fee” wasn’t another “blue line” – or may be it was to cover all the petrol costs for the 5 patrol cars!! Quebec does look a lovely place. Love. Merry

  18. Travel through Montreal is something most maritimers avoid if possible. Every time I pass through I say, “this time it will be better than the last!” It never is. Road signs (en francais) that come unexpected, heavy traffic, confusion, in wrong lanes, etc., etc. My last trip “past” was done by getting to the southern side of the river first and staying on that side. Much better.

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