Canada Trip #16 – Fort Henry and Kingston

Our only “big” trip out during our week staying at the lake house was to Kingston.  Kingston is a historic city, since it was united Canada’s first capital.  For three years.  Still, its historic significance means it has lots of quaint streets and interesting architecture.  The focus of our trip, however, was a visit to Fort Henry.


Fort Henry was built during the War of 1812 and the site was important because it was at the head of the St Lawrence River.  I don’t get defensive  strategy but I’ve had enough exposure to military history to know that ports, major waterways, and railway intersections are important.  And also peach orchards if it’s the Civil War.  It didn’t last long as an actual fort in the whole scheme of things, however, as it has been a tourist attraction since the 1930s.



The upper fort comprises what I guess were once storage warehouses that have been turned into shops and cafes.  We, therefore, headed down to the lower fort  – which was the “museum” bit of the Fort – and into a couple of rooms built into the gateway wall.  One contained an array of uniforms for the kids – and adults – to try on.  I preferred the opposite room which contained a cabinet filled with chunky vintage keys.  We also visited the cells – and, man, they had a lot of cells so those soldiers either must have been up no good a lot of the time or else they had too many petty offences on the books such as loudly burping in public or shoes being adequately shiny.  The cells, however, might have been preferable to the privies.  I personally would have preferred a stint in the cells than having to go about my business in a row of other people doing the same.






We were also able to visit a few kitchens, some more rustic and some more formal, and we even saw some women baking pretzels in the original ovens.  They made the whole place smell delicious.  They were not the only staff in costume either.  Indeed, the whole fort was manned by folks dressed up in period clothing.  One of these was a teacher and we sat in her classroom for a mathematics lesson.  The experience taught the kids in the room about the differences between the ways in which each gender was educated, what some of the expectations of classroom behaviour were, and what some of the punishments were for disobeying those rules.




Along the length of one corridor, we could view the finely decorated rooms in the officers’ quarters.  We had also seen a furnished barrack room for the non-commissioned men and the differences were pretty stark.  We passed through a room full of barrels – lots of alcohol consumption in the military, of course, and that led us into a room where we could choose to stay on the same level or take a detour down to the cellar level.  We love exploring dank, dark, and potentially spooky places so it was a no-brainer plus a warning sign about bats was read by us as a promise.  We all love bats.  Alas, and much to the chagrin of the Pictlings, we did not encounter a single bat nor did I see or smell any signs of them.  False advertising.




Up on the ramparts, we could poke among the canons and gain a better appreciation of the shape of the fort.  We could also watch a troop of faux soldiers rehearsing their drill.  We didn’t want to catch too much of what they were up to, however, because we did not want a spoiler of the actual performance so we skedaddled.





It was definitely time to eat by this point in the day, our schedule meaning we were having to combine lunch and dinner (dunch? linner?), so we headed into the centre of Kingston.  Mr Pict had been up to some googling so we ended up at a German restaurant.  I don’t eat meat which often completely rules out German cuisine and, as such, I don’t think the boys have ever eaten German food.  What better time to introduce them to new foods than when they are hangry and have been dragged around a fort in the searing heat against their will?  It actually proved to be an unexpected success – especially for our 16 year old who, like his father, is an enthusiastic carnivore.  Filled up and refreshed from some time spent with air conditioning, we had a bit of an explore of central Kingston.  Our youngest son – the one obsessed with cats – was delighted to pass many window displays with a feline theme.  For my part, I enjoyed seeing Kingston Penitentiary.  I would have liked to have visit but time did not permit.  Among the (in)famous prisoners who served their sentences within its walls was Grace Marks, the protagonist of Margaret Atwood’s novel ‘Alias Grace’.

2019-07-10 15.55.30-1

2019-07-10 15.15.15


After wandering around Kingston for a bit, we still had some time to “waste” so we headed over to Kingston’s section of the Rideau Canal.  The Rideau Canal stretches all the way from Ottawa to the St Lawrence.  Having visited one end of the canal when I was in Ottawa back in 2001, it was apt that I visit its other end in Kingston, where the canal system meets the Cataraqui River.  Just as with Fort Henry, the catalyst for construction was the War of 1812 (a conflict I know a woeful amount about while having little intention of deliberately learning more) because the British wanted to ensure a supply route.  It’s possible that as many as a thousand people died while building the canal, often from malaria.  This was a factoid I learned while, yet again, being bitten by swarms of flying insects.






After whiling away some time around the canal locks, it was time to return to Fort Henry.  We had tickets for the Sunset Ceremony so we headed back into the lower fort, clambered up onto some bleachers, and gobbled up some beaver tails while waiting for the evening’s entertainment to start.  The ceremony was a demonstration of military drills, music, artillery, and fireworks – and a walk on part by the goat mascot.  The whole performance was very polished, with lots of precise movements, great visuals, and an informative narration.  The kids had been very skeptical about the value of returning to the fort but they all thoroughly enjoyed the show.

2019-07-10 19.06.59







Canada Trip #15 – Gananoque

Gananoque is the main town in the proximity of Lake Charleston.  We needed to grab a few provisions so we headed into town and thought we would take some time to explore as well as do the practical job of grocery shopping.  I had thought we would visit the local museum in order to learn something of the history of the Thousand Islands – Gananoque being the launching point for day cruises around and to the islands – but the kids did their peasant revolt thing and Mr Pict was not feeling it either.  They had all really got into the vibe of an inactive vacation whereas I was still in the mindset of needing to fill time with activity.


Gananoque’s main street – King Street – looked like a pleasant place for a wander so we decided to park up the car and get out for a stroll.  We had a nose around a few of the stores.  The one we spent a lot of time in was a book store.  It sold a mixture of new and second hand books and all were arranged on shelves by genre.  The usual methods of categorisation were present – such as classics and crime fiction – but there were also fun ways of organising the books such as books that are much better to read than their movie adaptation might suggest.  I have a slight addiction to buying second hand books – often leaving our local library with a bargain from their discard shelves – but I managed to resist temptation.  Mr Pict bought a couple of history books.



We bought some drinks and ice creams from a lovely little cafe and were super-excited to see that, among the baked goods it had for sale, they had millionaires shortbread.  This is just blocks of shortbread with a topping of thick, oozy caramel, and a slab of chocolate as its lid.  What we were excited about was the fact they called it millionaires shortbread which is a label we have not seen since we left Scotland.  A little taste of home does the soul good so we bought some to have for dessert that night.


Last stop in Gananoque was to see a statue of a fish that sits in the grounds of a motel complex.  It celebrates the world’s largest muskie (which I did not even know was a type of fish) that was caught locally.  The fish weighed something like 70lbs, which I guess is quite a lot of fish.  I don’t fish, have no interest in ever doing so, and clearly know nothing about it since I did not even know a muskie was a thing.  I do, however, love random roadside monuments, especially anything carrying the label of “world’s largest”, so I had to go check it out.  It was just a massive concrete sculpture of a leaping fish but I was happy to achieve something touristy.



Canada Trip #14 – Charleston Lake

We felt we could not stay on Lake Charleston for a week without actually exploring Lake Charleston beyond our own little sliver of shoreline.  We, therefore, entered the provincial park, plumped for the shoreline trail, and set off on a trek.  An information at the trailhead provided us with some information on what we might encounter on our trek.  Consequently, the younger boys had high expectations of seeing wildlife.  This was despite the fact that we were encountering significantly fewer critters in our borrowed woodland house than we encounter on a daily basis in our suburban home.  We saw some squirrels, a punk caterpillar, and a solitary deer, and that – apart from the fish – was the sum total of our wildlife encounters during our week at the lake house.  This was not what we anticipated.  My youngest son has a trail camera set up in our backyard so he can capture images of deer and foxes and the chupacabra (a mangy fox that malingers in our neighbourhood) and he brought his camera with him to the lake house.  It captured nothing.  Nothing.  A whole week living in the woods and it captured not one single image of a beast of any kind.  But I digress.


The shoreline trail was an easy going loop.  It was a baking hot day so the shade of the trees provided welcome respite from the heat and also created lovely dappled light on the woodland floor.  Shoreline was a bit of a misnomer as the path barely took us near the coast of the lake.  There was one point where we popped out of the trees at the water’s edge but a couple of kayakers were trying to have what looked to be a romantic picnic right at that spot so we did the diplomatic thing and kept moving.  The only other body of water we passed was some kind of pond – probably a tributary of the actual lake.  It was so still, however, that it was practically stagnant and, of course, that meant biting insects galore were having some kind of convention there.  We were instantly being devoured.  The mosquitos were so big that when we swatted them, they left crime scene style spatters of blood on our arms and legs.  So gross.  Even my husband, who is normally immune from being bitten, was getting eaten alive by these vicious insects.  That was the day when I was bitten so many times that I had a particularly nasty reaction in the evening.





Mercifully, to make the trek worthwhile, we did encounter one (non-biting) animal – a gorgeous little frog.  Or maybe a toad.  I have not identified what specific species of amphibian it was.  The kids were thrilled to have an actual animal encounter.





Canada Trip #13 – Fun on the Lake

I won’t keep you in suspense about what our experience of staying in one place for an entire week was.  This post, therefore, is about the way in which we used our lakeside setting and relaxed in the house spanning that entire week.  Future posts will cover specific things that we did.

The house was sited on a steep hill and it was built part way down the slope.  We, therefore, had to take a flight of stairs from the driveway down to the house, the house itself was single storey, then there was a flight of stairs down to a patch of land, and there was a further flight of stairs that took us down to a small jetty right on Lake Charleston.  This meant the house was snuggled into a space that was very secluded and private and, therefore, very quiet and peaceful.  The elevation also provided us with lovely views and we got to see some lovely sunrises and sunsets during our time there.  Mr Pict, space nerd that he is, also enjoyed being able to go out onto the deck in the absolute pitch dark to study the constellations and show the boys the Milky Way free of light pollution.

2019-07-08 05.31.18

The big hit, of course, was having access to the water.  The boys loved jumping off of the lakeside deck and splashing into the water.  The water was really clear so we regretted not bringing goggles and a snorkel.  We were swimming among many fish and Mr Pict and two of the kids saw a swimming turtle at one point.  The kids also encountered a critter that was biting their toes.  They were initially concerned that this was a snapping turtle but I pointed out they would definitely know had they been bitten by one of those.  It turned out to be a really territorial fish who was biting at them any time they got near her particular rock – which was very close to the jetty stairs.  The boys nicknamed her Trish the Foot Fetish Fish.  I think they grew rather fond of her.







The house also came with a canoe so we spent quite a lot of time going for brief excursions along the perimeter of the lake.  We could not risk crossing the lake or indeed venturing too far from the shore because there were speed boats bursting up and down the length of the lake pretty much constantly.  The kids have limited experience with paddling but got really pretty good at it towards the end of the trip.




We also utilised the fire pit to make s’mores for dessert on a couple of evenings.  My kids are equally as drawn to fire as they are to water so I am pretty sure the thing they enjoy most about making s’mores is having the opportunity to poke things into flames.  We got into a totally sticky mess.  I also managed to get eaten alive by biting insects.  Insects find me insatiable.  My blood must taste like finest champagne to them.  Unfortunately, I have a terrible reaction to insect bites.  Most of the time, it just leads to discomfort but otherwise is not too problematic.  Sometimes, however, it results in me feeling very sick.  Unfortunately on one of the evenings at the lake house, I was covered in so many nasty bug bites that I developed an excruciating headache and a mild fever.  That was, however, the only downside to the location.

2019-07-08 19.25.45-1

2019-07-08 19.46.45-1

2019-07-09 19.35.19

We had one day of non-stop, torrential rain during our week there.  We, therefore, just hunkered down and used the time for relaxing on our own or playing games together.  Our evening habit was to play games and there was one in particular that we got a bit obsessed with.  We must have played scores of games of ‘One Night Ultimate Werewolf’.  I used my flumping around time to read a couple of books and draw while listening to podcasts.

2019-07-12 19.10.54

Overall, I think we all enjoyed our time at the lake house and benefited from the fact it forced us to slow down.  Given the stressful situation we had left behind, removing us from the chaos and forcing us to relax after a period of such intense activity, it was probably good therapy to experience a week of this style of vacation.  I cannot deny, however, that I did have the nagging feeling that we should be packing more experiences into each day in order for our vacation to offer better value for money.  I think what we probably need to do in future is find a happy balance between really pushing ourselves to the limit when it comes to travel and making time in which to relax.

Canada Trip #12 – Brockville

An early check out from the apartment in Montreal and a late check in for our next accommodation meant we had time to spare.  For various, mostly pragmatic reasons, we elected to spend that spare time in Brockville, Ontario.

One of the non-pragmatic reasons we selected Brockville was that it has a disused railway tunnel we could visit.  I confess to only being very vaguely interested in the prospect of visiting a piece of infrastructure heritage because industrial history isn’t my thing.  Just as with being a perpetual pessimist, the joy of having low expectations is that its wonderful when they are exceeded.  Such was the case with the Brockville Railway Tunnel.  I was expecting bare brick, chilly walls, and dripping water and really not a lot else.  It was a grossly hot and humid day, however, so the idea of taking a stroll through intense shade certainly appealed.  What we found, however, was a railway tunnel that volunteers have transformed into an installation that tells the story of the local railway heritage while also being a sort of sensory exhibition.  There was indeed bare brick, chilly walls, and dripping water, but there were also colour changing lights and music and sounds.  I liked the effect of the changing colours a lot.  Ever so often, the sounds of a whizzing train would be pumped in and the lights would go sharp white except for a red section that moved at high speed to replicate the movement of the train through the tunnel.  It was like a disco ghost train.  I mean, there is really only so much you can do to enliven a railway tunnel but I really think the team of volunteers of doing a sterling job of doing so.  It really did make for a pleasant stroll.








We later spoke to one of the volunteers and he explained that the idea of gussying up the tunnel was for it to act as an enticement to bring people to the town and give it an economic boost.  That ploy certainly worked on us as we popped out the other end of the tunnel and found a pleasant, compact little town on the waterfront and decided to spend some time milling around there.  The boys skipped stones in the water while Mr Pict watched commercial ships charging through the water.  I also found that the town had once been the site of a hospital island where emigrants stricken with cholera had been housed during an 1832 epidemic.  I have a keen interest in the history of pandemics and some epidemics so I found this to be of interest.  A sign also informed me that a fellow Scot had expired there when, in his role as doctor, he had contracted cholera when attending to the sick.  We rounded up our time in Brockville by stopping in at a local pub for a tasty meal.




Replete, we next headed to a local supermarket to stock up on groceries.  Our next destination was remote and we had been told that access to groceries would be limited.  We, therefore, decided to stock up on food for the week in Brockville since we knew they had a big supermarket and we had time to burn.  I am big on meal planning and buying only items that are on the shopping list.  However, we definitely added extra items to the shopping trolley because we discovered that Canadian supermarkets stock lots of items we used to buy in Britain but cannot get – or cannot affordably purchase – in America.  We went a bit crazy with breakfast cereal and chocolate and candy.  We actually bought enough that some of the cereal eventually came home with us.  The chocolate, of course, had a much shorter life expectancy.

We arrived at our final destination in the late afternoon.  Long time followers of this blog will know that our road trips usually involve us moving frequently from location to location, and never staying any one place for more than a few days.  For this vacation, however, we decided to treat – or challenge – ourselves to a change of pace.  We were going to be staying in the same location for an entire week.  Adding another layer to the change of pace was the fact that the house we were renting was situation on Lake Charleston and was fairly remote and quiet.  We were going to have lots of downtime in which to relax.





Canada Trip #11 – Montreal

In every vacation – especially with our road trips – we have some kind of mishap, catastrophe, or major stressor.  For our Canadian road trip, it was the Montreal leg of our trip that went almost entirely pear-shaped.  I had so many possibilities researched for our time in Montreal, so many potential plans, but if those plans were all neatly packed into a box then our time in the city was like the bottom falling out of that box as soon as it was lifted up.

It all started with the accommodation, which had been booked with a company we had never used before and shall definitely never use again.  It was a hotel without a concierge so the idea was we had to phone 24 hours before check-in to be given all manner of instructions and access codes.  This should have been simple enough but they did not answer the phone, no matter how many calls we placed and messages we left.  I will spare you the details of the saga but just know that the uncertainty was very stressful to manage and gave me sustained elevated anxiety.  My husband and I used to wing it when travelling in the past because finding one room for two people at last minute was rarely problematic but finding accommodation for six people is a challenge even when planning in advance and definitely cannot be managed on spec without a whole barrel more stress.  Ultimately, at very nearly the last minute, the company finally picked up the phone, provided the codes, and we could access the accommodation.  All we had time left to do that first evening, however, was have a brief explore of the area nearby.  It was a frustrating start.

2019-07-04 16.11.23

The first proper thing we did in Montreal, therefore, was to ascend Mount Royal.  This is the volcanic hill that gives the city its name.  Neither Mr Pict or I had visited it during our previous visit to Montreal so we were keen to see it and the spectacular views over the city that were promised.  We set off from our apartment in the morning and were soon hiking up the trails, through the trees, to get to the summit.  And, just as we really started ascending, the skies opened and we were drenched by a deluge.  We sheltered beneath the tree canopy in the hopes it would quickly pass over.  Rain had not been predicted for the morning after all.  However, it did not pass.  It actually just got worse.  By this point we were soaked to the skin anyway, and at least it was warm, so we decided we would keep plunging onwards and upwards.  We emerged from the woodland trail onto the belvedere dripping, squelchy, and looking like forest trolls.  But at least it would all be worth it for the fabulous views, right?  Yeah, not so much.  We could definitely see an expanse of the city below us but it really wasn’t that enthralling a view.  Maybe it was the haze from the intense humidity obscuring the detail and maybe (probably) it was our soggy moods but we were all entirely underwhelmed.  Well, Mr Pict and I were merely underwhelmed; our sons were incandescent, feeling like they had been duped by us, and starting to foment a rebellion against committing to any of our other plans for Montreal.  Oh dear.




2019-07-05 09.55.50

2019-07-05 10.15.10

We squelched and dripped our way back down the hill and towards the neighbourhood we were staying in.  Most of us were going to require a change of clothes before we could even countenance doing anything else.  Our apartment was in a district that was kind of hipster and trendy, definitely in the category of an up and coming area rather than fully gentrified, and we had learned that it was fun to explore it by daylight, when it had a really great vibe, but we didn’t really want to have the kids out after dark.  Anyway, our walk back to the apartment from Mount Royal took us through a neighbourhood where the gable ends of buildings and other walls were decorated in wonderful murals.  Apparently urban artists are invited to paint the walls in the neighbourhood every summer and the quality of their art is really fabulous.  The kids and I really enjoyed viewing them and treated the streets like an outdoor art gallery.







Returning to the apartment to dry out and change clothes was useful on a practical level but it was also a mistake.  Once the kids were back inside those four walls, they mounted a bit of an insurrection about going back out.  Our bad start to exploring Montreal had eaten away at their enthusiasm and they were bottomed out.  Plus they are teen and tween boys so any opportunity to rebel and rail against parental dictats is going to be seized upon.  I sometimes have to remind myself that life was not in fact easier when they were all small enough to be strapped into a buggy or carrier.  I also have to remind myself that I have trained them to voice their own opinions and to debate.  I created these rebellious monsters!

We compelled them to go back out again with the promise of lunch.  Once they had been fed, however, I revealed that we would be using what remained of the afternoon to do something constructive.  Of course they whined and grumbled but I was past caring at this point.  As we are fond of reminding our precious children, while we normally parent in a democratic style, sometimes we have to be dictators.  You can imagine how well that went down.


My most vivid memory of my previous visit to Montreal was of visiting Notre Dame Basilica (yup, same name was the one in Quebec) because I had been bowled over by its interior decoration.  I decided that was what we would do so we tramped over to the old city.  The queue for admission ran all the way down the street – cue much griping – but it was also fairly fast moving.  We were inside in under forty minutes.  The kids elected to soak up the atmosphere and aesthetics (and air conditioning) from a pew so I just abandoned them there while I wandered around the basilica and studied the details of the carvings, the stained glass, and the paintwork.  It was the latter that had left that lasting impression with me.  The vaulted ceiling is painted a rich blue that is then spattered with gilded stars.  The main altar is also mainly an azure blue colour but with patterns picked out in red and purple as well as gold.  It’s like an exquisite box of luxurious jewellery.  It’s lavish and stunning and a bit of an extravagant confection but I think historic ecclesiastical architecture can pull such excess off.  I even got to hear the 19th Century organ being warmed up and played briefly which was fantastic.  The kids remained unmoved and unimpressed.







After a bit more wandering around the old city and its port, we gave up.  We strolled back to our own neighbourhood, grabbed some ingredients for our evening meal from a grocery store, and returned to our apartment, and I packed up so we could set off for the next leg of our trip.  So our time in Montreal was a bit of a damp squib all in all.  My memories from my 2001 Canadian road trip had left me with the impression that Quebec was a much more appealing tourist destination but that Montreal was a much more practical city and my visits this time had just served to shore up that opinion.  While our visit to Montreal as tourists had been beset by problems – some of our own making and some not – I could definitely imagine it being a great place to live and work; meanwhile, Quebec was a wonderful city to visit as a tourist but I think living there could be a bit more challenging.  In any case, we were done with cities now.  Now it was time for a change of pace.

Canada Trip #10 – Ramparts of Quebec

After our visit to the Montmorency Falls and the Ile d’Orleans, we wanted to spend the evening back in Quebec’s old city given it was our last evening there.  It was completely lovely to be out in the cooling air and the golden light of the sinking sun really showcased the city’s architecture.  We didn’t really have an objective when we set out for our stroll but then inspiration struck and we decided to walk along a section of the Ramparts.

2019-07-03 20.19.22

The fortifications technically date from the mid-18th Century after the British took the city from the French but they have been demolished and reconstructed over the centuries so they are a bit of an architectural Frankenstein.  We could not have walked the entire perimeter of the walls even had we wanted to because, once again, as with our attempt to reach the Plains of Abraham, we were thwarted by construction works.  We, therefore, walked a stretch from Porte Saint-Jean around to the area of the Plains of Abraham.

2019-07-03 20.24.49

2019-07-03 20.27.53

The elevation of the walls afforded us a great view over the city streets, lots of panoramic vistas, and letterbox vignettes observed through these oblong windows cut into the walls.  It also helped us appreciate how these fortifications functioned as defences and how much they must have dominated the city.

2019-07-03 20.25.29

2019-07-03 20.31.14

2019-07-03 20.45.15

The ramparts made for a really lovely stroll, away from the crowds yet still in the thick of things, and it was especially pleasant to be so high up as the sun set and then to be back in the area of the Place Royale in the dark to enjoy the twinkling lights and glow from the lamps.  It turned out to be the best way for us to bid farewell to Quebec.

2019-07-03 20.44.13

Canada Trip #9 – Ile d’Orleans

After spending most of the morning at Montmorency Falls, we headed across the bridge to the Ile d’Orleans.  This should have been a very brief journey across a short bridge but it took a quarter of an eon to cross it because the traffic was dense and intensely slow moving.  I really had not appreciated that there would be a traffic jam heading onto an island.  Once we were on the island, we essentially did a loop around its circumference on its one main road.  It’s a very agrarian island with lots of orchards and vineyards – Cartier named the island after Bacchus when he arrived there in the 1500s – and plentiful charm.

There are lots of places where one could stop off on the Ile d’Orleans as there are a whole load of artisanal food producers, gift shops, and eateries.  We did not have the time nor the inclination nor the budget to visit all of them so we made a selection and stuck to it.  First up was a blackcurrant farm called Cassis Monna & Filles.  It was selling its wares in a very bijou building with a restaurant in the top level and a store below.  We enjoyed sampling the various jams and preserves and most were completely delicious.  The only one I objected to was some sort of chutney that was onion and blackcurrant.  Mr Pict and I have been consuming blackcurrants for most of our lives as they are a pretty common seasonal fruit in Britain but we have really not encountered blackcurrant anything during our years of living in America.  It was, therefore, a treat to be eating blackcurrant again.  We were all thirsty so we bought blackcurrant cordial which tasted just like Ribena, another staple of British childhoods.




We had a little nose in the barn, which is set up to be a small museum about their history of blackcurrant farming, and which had a window that enabled us to observe the manufacturing of blackcurrant produce.  Unfortunately we had clearly just missed them making something so what we were observing was two workers cleaning up all the equipment.  Still, the exhibits were interesting and informative and we learned the explanation for our blackcurrant deficit at home: blackcurrant farming was banned in America for a long time because of a plant disease called white pine blister rust.  I guess there is, therefore, no tradition of farming or eating them.




Our thirsts quenched, everyone was getting hangry.  There are lots of microbrasseries, vineyard restaurants, and other upscale places for gastronomes to eat fabulous local cuisine on the island but a) we were travelling with kids and b) we have a budget, so we finally stopped off at a trading post place.  It didn’t look like much from the outside but it had a lovely deck area overlooking pastures and orchards and the food was simple but delicious.

2019-07-03 13.50.36

We had hoped to visit a maple syrup farm and see it being produced but we could not find anywhere that was open and running demonstrations.  We did, however, stop in at a boulangerie because we all love bread and pastries and cakes.  We were spoiled for choice as everything on the shelves looked amazing but we each chose a patisserie item that we could scoff for breakfast the next morning.

2019-07-03 15.29.26

2019-07-03 15.25.38

If Mr Pict and I had been visiting the Ile d’Orleans on our own, as just an adult couple, we could happily have spent an entire day exploring and eating.  It really is a place aimed at adults and didn’t have much to divert or engage the kids.  It’s a really lovely spot, however, and so peaceful and green.  I can see why it draws daytrippers from the city.

Canada Trip #8 – Montmorency Falls

Montmorency Falls are just a short drive from Quebec’s city centre.  This is a large waterfall at the mouth of the Montmorency River where it dramatically joins the St Lawrence.  The falls have a 272 feet drop which, the publicity enjoys informing visitors, makes them taller than those at Niagara.  A little like Niagara Falls (which we visited last year), it has been transformed from a natural feature into a tourist attraction.  It was possible to do all sorts of activities there – such as ziplining – but we decided to just take the cable car up and then walk all the way back down.  Frankly travelling in a cable car is as adrenalin-filled as I can manage.

In order to reduce queuing time, they really pack a lot of people into each car.  Have I mentioned several hundred times that I do not like crowds?  Hello, claustrophobia!  Our particular ride was made worse because some ridiculous bloke insisted on not folding down his double buggy (stroller) so – having been counted as one person – he was taking up the space of about four people.  Then there was the unstable movement and the heights to contend with.  Along with clowns, heights is my major phobia.  The views of the Falls from the cable car were pleasing enough but man was I relieved when the doors opened and we got out.


2019-07-03 10.48.22


The next phase of the visit involved walking across a suspension bridge directly above the Falls.  We could see all the way across to Quebec city and could even make out the Chateau Frontenac at its apex.  It was not as terrifying as I had braced myself for and it definitely gave us spectacular views of the crest of the Falls.  We could hear the roar of the water and feel the spray of the water.  They are pretty impressive Falls and being above them offered a pretty unique perspective on a waterfall.






The third phase of the waterfall experience was to walk down many, many, many wooden stairs (over 480 steps) to see the “face” of the falls from different elevations and angles.  To be fair, the staircase was completely stable and solid and was perfectly capable of handling the load of a hundred tourists but in my acrophobic brain the whole thing was as rickety and unstable as if I had cobbled it together out of toothpicks.  The views were fantastic, however, so I sucked it up and soldiered on.  We especially loved seeing the rainbows.


The final phase was entirely optional and avoidable but involved standing at the base of the falls.  We could really appreciate the power of the water as vertical met horizontal with a sound like distant thunder.  Even though we were not standing directly beneath the water, we still got soaked from the spray.  My two middle sons ended up completely saturated.  They loved it.




While the hundreds of tourists and all the man-made structures certainly detract from the natural beauty of Montmorency Falls, we were really glad we had taken the trip because the experience really provided us with a new way of engaging with waterfalls given all of the different perspectives.


Canada Trip #7 – Basilica and Food

Everyone was hungry after the Musee de la Civilisation so we had a wander through the streets around the Place Royale, past Notre Dame des Victoires, in search of a snack.  Beaver tails are a Canadian snack that none of us had ever had before so we opted for those.  Beaver tails are a sort of doughnut-like pastry formed into the approximate shape of – you’ve guessed it – a beaver tail on which various toppings can be added.  The place we stopped into provided roughly a dozen options for toppings.  I believe cinnamon sugar is the traditional topping but we went for hazelnut spread and banana, some sort of cheesecake type confection, and an Oreo inspired spread.  Travelling on our stomachs again!







Replenished we decided to walk up to the Plains of Abraham.  This is the site of the 1759 battle in the French and Indian War that killed the commanders of both sides, Wolfe and Montcalm.  We knew we could not visit the citadel there due to a staff strike but we had hoped to wander around the exterior.  Unfortunately, no matter what route we took, we were thwarted by construction work.  As the kids were increasingly frustrated and disenchanted by the plan, we decided to abandon the mission.







I, therefore, led everyone to see something I wanted them to see which was the Notre Dame Basilica.  I have a thing for ecclesiastical architecture that the other Picts do not share.  They, therefore, enjoyed a rest in the pews while my 13 year old was kind enough to accompany me around the building.  The specific purpose of my mission was to see the Holy Door.  It was installed in 2014 so I had not seen it on my previous visit.  Unfortunately, construction again thwarted my plans and I could not get anywhere near the door.  Why, Quebec?  Why?  Still, the interior of the church is lovely and I think we all appreciated the chance to get out of the blazing sun.





We ate dinner that evening in the Place Royale.  We selected an Italian restaurant because it had an outdoor dining area that enabled us to enjoy the surrounding architecture and people watch.  The food was decidedly off-theme but it was nevertheless delicious.  The bonus was that, walking back to the apartment, there were finally no crowds in front of the Fresque des Quebecois.  It is a mural painted on the gable end of a multistorey building so it has a sort of trompe l’oeil quality to it.  It tells the story of Quebec’s history and is richly detailed.  I like street art so I was very pleased to have an opportunity to view it without scores of people milling around in front of it.

2019-07-02 18.02.45

2019-07-02 18.01.30

2019-07-02 18.02.21

2019-07-02 18.24.14

2019-07-02 18.24.40