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Canadian Capitals 6/21/19 (Quebec City)

Today was the last day of our Tauck tour.  Most of us will be traveling home tomorrow; however, a few will be staying an extra day or two.  Our tour itinerary for today was to have free time until the farewell dinner tonight.  Our mot excellent guide, Gen, graciously offered to lead a walking tour of Old Quebec City to anyone interested.  All but four tour members took her up on the offer.

Meeting in the lobby at 9:30am, we headed to the lower floor of the hotel.  Gen paused by the display cases lining the walls.  The cases house relics from the original French settlement in Quebec; most of the artifacts on display were uncovered during the building of the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac.  Built by the Canadian Pacific Railway, it opened in 1893, but has been renovated and expanded several times since.  The name Quebec comes from the Algonquin word Kebec, meaning "where the river narrows" and the settlers picked this location where the Gulf of St. Lawrence narrows to become th…

Canadian Capitals 6/20/19 (Quebec City)

We had a slightly later start today, leaving the hotel at 9am.  We were joined by a local guide that would be with us until we returned to the hotel after lunch.  Portraying the character of Sir Frederick Haldimand, he was born in Switzerland but joined the British military and was appointed Governor of the Province of Quebec in 1778.  Bernard (our guide's real name) wove the history of Quebec into our morning tour of the city.

We have not seen a lot of sunshine on this trip, but today was by far the coldest and wettest day, making the outdoor portions of our tour a little uncomfortable, but that did not deter anyone from joining in.

Passing outside the old walls of Quebec City, our first stop was the Governor's Promenade which overlooks the St. Lawrence River.  Here we learned about the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759 (also known as the Battle of Quebec).  Fought during the French and Indian War, it was a battle between the British and French armies for the City of Qu…

Canadian Capitals 6/19/19 (Montreal to Quebec City)

Our drive started at 8:30am and on the way out of town, we passed the Olympic Stadium used for the 1976 Summer Olympics.  It was nicknamed "The Big O" partially due to the construction of the roof which proved to be a poor choice for the climate of Montreal.  The roof has been repaired and replaced so many times that the locals now refer to the stadium as "The Big Owe".  The stadium has the largest seating capacity in Canada, but is now used mostly for really large events (concerts, monster truck shows) as Montreal does not currently have a baseball or football team calling Montreal home.  There are usually only a dozen or so events there annually.

We made our morning break stop at Chez Dany.  Primarily a restaurant, it has a display that traces the evolution of maple sugar production in a separate "sugar shack".  We started our visit by sampling Maple taffy.  Maple taffy is made by boiling maple sap past the point of maple syrup, but less than the temper…

Canadian Capital 6/18/19 (Old Montreal)

We started this morning with our group picture.  Walking across the street from the hotel to the Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral, we lined up on the steps, smiled a few times and we were done.

This morning we are off to the Old Montreal walking tour with a few food tastings thrown in.  Since the streets in the old area are pretty narrow, Guy dropped us off on the outskirts where we broke into four groups, each with a local guide.  Old Montreal was first settled in 1624 by the French as Fort Ville-Marie.  Many structures date back to that era of New France.  This is where the cruise ship docks are now located.

Our guide told us about many of the buildings we passed and how their uses have changed over time.
We saw the original Molson factory.  Molson has a long history in Montreal dating back to 1786.  As the city grew in size due to immigration, many of the new arrivals brought communicable diseases which threatened the water supply. The original brewery was started and flourished,…

Canadian Capitals 6/17/19 (Ottawa to Montreal)

Breakfast at 7am, bags ready at 7:30am and once again we pulled away from the hotel on time at 8:30am.  We took a brief ride past a few embassies, the prime minister's residence and the home of the US Ambassador before pulling into the home of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) stables.

The RCMP is a federal police force for Canada and has primary jurisdiction in all areas with the exception of Ontario and Quebec.  These provinces have their own police force and RCMP assists only where needed.  The RCMP has responsibility for functions that in the US are handled by the FBI, CIA, Border Patrol, Secret Service, and the DEA.  We were greeted at the gate by Bob Taylor, a retired RMCP officer.

The stables we visited are home to the Musical Ride which is an event that showcases the equestrian skills of 32 cavalry members who are also regular members of the police force.  A third of the team is replaced each year and they travel the world performing.  They have been performing sinc…

Canadian Capitals 6/16/19 (Ottawa)

We got to sleep in as we did not need to meet until 9am today.  We started in the hotel lobby where we given Vox Box devices.  This allows everyone to hear the tour guide without the need to stand in a closely huddled group.  They are pretty nifty and should be used by all tour groups.  It allows you to wander around, look at additional sites and take pictures while listening to the tour guide.

Our hotel, the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, is adjacent to Parliament Hill. This morning we skipped the bus and started with a walking tour; our first stop was to learn about the locks where the Rideau Canal meets the Ottawa River.  The canal connects Ottawa to Lake Ontario and the St Lawrence River at Kingston, ON.

Moving on to Parliament Hill, Gen told us about the Canadian governance system; the houses of parliament, how laws are passed, Federal vs Provincial oversight, etc.  We were only able to see the buildings from the outside, as most are undergoing renovation.  We did get to see preparati…

Canadian Capitals 6/15/19 (Toronto to Ottawa)

Bags out at 7:30am and on the bus at 8:30am.  Sleeping was better as the Raptor celebrations are on hold until Monday's parade.  Upon boarding the bus, we were greeted by a small bag of treats on our seat.  The Fairmont provided us with macaroons and the recipe dating back to the hotel's opening in 1929.

We left Toronto and merged onto the Trans-Canada Highway that spans from Vancouver to Halifax and travels through all ten provinces.  The road is highly traveled as runs close to the US border; over 80% of the population of Canada lives within 100 miles of the US.  Today was our longest bus day and Gen provided a lot of information regarding Canada, including the government, history, health care, taxes and education.

We took a mid-morning break at the Big Apple.  Devoted to all things apple, it has food items, a petting zoo and souvenirs.  Fresh apples, donuts and sweets are prepared in full view behind glass windows.  Gen treated us to apple donuts after we reboarded the bus.