Friday, August 28, 2015

Southern Maine

First stop on the drive to Boothbay Harbor: Rooster Brother, a great kitchen shop in Ellsworth. We made further stops in Lincolnville and Camden before having lunch in Cafe Miranda in Rockland with Brian Harden, another college classmate. The Roasted Vegetable Medley and the "Sorta Kefta" lamb patties were both excellent. 

After checking into our hotel in Boothbay we crossed the harbor via the pedestrian bridge and wandered around town for a bit.

After a way good Sunday breakfast we headed for the Botanic Garden. This garden, opened in 2007. It was great then. And it has only gotten bigger and better. Each summer they feature work by a sculptor. This summer's exhibit features George Sherwood’s kinetic sculptures. 
Sculpture by George Sherwood...
suspended metal disks reflect light.
We enjoyed lunch upstairs at "The Boathouse". We each had risotto (BLT for Pat and Scallop for Bill). After a short break we drove down to Ocean Point and got some great views over the harbor. 
View at Ocean Point

Next morning after breakfast we took a short side trip to Damariscotta to see the shops and then head toward Freeport. We arrive in time for a late lunch at Linda Bean’s - lobster for Pat and haddock for Bill with a nice New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. 

After lunch we enjoyed our shopping spree at LL Bean...spending Bill's birthday gift card from his Mom.

While walking back to the car we have an unexpected encounter with the daughter of one of neighbors from when we lived in Sudbury MA (1972-1984), Lorraine, her husband Burns and daughter Gracie. They were in the area visiting potential universities for Gracie (Colby, Bates and Bowdoin), and being solid New Englanders they were making the obligatory Freeport shopping stops (outlets and LL Bean).

With Lorraine, Burns & Gracie in Freeport.
Lorraine is sooo... much better at taking selfies than I am. Sigh.
We went to Portland in the morning for a little touring and shopping and were back in Freeport for lunch. Bill rested and Pat shopped for the rest of the afternoon.

At a shop in Portland: Maple Syrup from Foss Hill Farm,
Produced and packaged by childhood friend Barb Crispell
Wednesday we visited the Portland Museum of Art. Founded in 1882 as the Portland Society of Art, the collection includes decorative and fine arts dating from the 18th century to the present, and includes notably Maine artists including Winslow Homer and the Wyeth family (Andrew, Jamie and N.C.). It's a great collection and we enjoy going there on most of our visits to the state. After visiting the museum we drove to the eastern promenade for some views over the bay and islands.
NC Wyeth: Dark Harbor Fishermen 1943
Bernard Langlais: Indian Jungle Scene 1966
Lunch was with Peter and Caroline, friends that we met in San Miguel but who live in Portland.  Lunch was at the Great Lost Bear, a pub in their neighborhood. Peter and Bill talked about painting and technology while Caroline and Pat discussed some possible activities around Charleston and Savannah. 

We were having withdrawal symptom and had to stop at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods for snacks.  Upon our return to Freeport we also visited "When Pigs Fly" (a fabulous bakery featuring a broad range of crusty breads). 

Thursday we shop around Freeport and visit Linda Bean again for lunch. Pat had steamers (steamed clams) and Bill had more scallops. All washed down with a Steele Chardonnay. And we had the blueberry pie for dessert. A great traditional meal.

Friday we visited "When Pigs Fly" again to pick up some bread to take along on our visit with Dave and Margie on Hutchinson Pond. Dave is a co-worker of Pat's from the early 70's. We arrived at their place in Western Maine around midday. After some catching up on happenings we headed to Bethel for dinner at 22 Broadstreet, a very fine Italian restaurant, We shared stuffed mushrooms followed by ravolis with bacon, carmelized onion and cheese for Pat and Carbonara for Bill ...all accompanied by a very nice Primitivo. We had several torrential downpours during dinner but managed to escape to the car during a lull.

Next morning after breakfast the four of us scaled Mt Sabbatus, 1.4 mile loop to the 1253 foot summit. It was what Terry would call a "roots and rocks" trail, but we managed it easily and enjoyed the views from the top.

At the summit of Mt Sabbatus
View from Mt Sabbatus...looking over Southern NH
Dave and Margie headed home and we headed for Ogunquit for lunch at Prego. After stops at Stonewall Kitchen and the flagship "When Pigs Fly",  we left Maine and headed for our B&B in Portsmouth NH.
Bread From When Pigs Fly: Sun-Dried Tomato with Fresh Basil

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Maine: Family, Friends, Corn, Lobster, ...

We were off to an early start from Montreal and crossed the border into Maine around midday. An interesting discussion at the crossing involved explaining the US passports, Mexican licenses, South Dakota auto registration, and our travels through Canada. Throughout the whole process Pat was struck by the stern expression of the young border guard...noting that it seemed forced, as if he felt it was the appropriate stance for dealing with anyone and everyone. 

We stopped at the Stanley Steamer Museum in Kingfield and discovered that although the Stanley brothers (twins) are known for the automobile, they made more money from inventions in photography (Eastman actually bought their technology at a premium just so they could kill it and avoid the competition). The enthusiastic, well informed docent made this a really worthwhile stop.

Pat "driving "a Stanley Steamer...Can you believe they let, even encourage, you to get in the cars???
Enroute to Pat’s dairy framer brother’s home we hope to pick up some corn from  our veggie grower families but neither Bill's cousin Charlie or Pat’s brother Frank had any yet, Curse the late spring. Both were expecting and hoping the corn would be ready two days later…and indeed this was the case.

On Friday we went to Bangor to wash and vacuum the car, pickup some groceries, get Pat a lobster lunch, and have our hair cut…first time in 3 months! Pat gave the lobster a 9 out of 10. 
Pat's first lobster of the trip
Dinner was a New England tradition, baked beans. Thanks to Sandra for remembering that we both like, and miss, home cooed baked beans. (A couple days later she made the leftovers into "bean-burgers" by adding bacon & cheese. This was a first for us, but very tasty!)  After dinner we visited Pat’s niece Mary and her husband Peter. We made plans for a second visit in Bar Harbor.

We have been anticipating our 50th High School reunion since we started planning this trip. The Saturday afternoon event was well attended with more than half of our remaining classmates being there. Attendees included familiar and not so familiar faces including Tom, Dick and Dennis who married into the class of ’65 from the class of ’63 . Speaking of marriages, at least 4 couples there have been married for longer than us with our nearly 47 years.  Many thanks to the organizers for the opportunity to connect with our classmates again.

Sunday was family day with 3 generations joining us at the dairy farm.  In addition to the pool there were rides for the “kids” in the “bucket” of the fire engine/ladder truck that “the Farm” recently purchased!! Some great views over the farm from the top. Also on the entertainment menu were 4-wheeeler tours around the farm.  We had a ride with Peter and Mary that included a few dips in the trail filled with muddy water that made the ride fun but left us a little damp and dirty.
Mary and Pat with Nathan at the helm of the "bucket" of the farm's firetruck
More farm-toys, viewed from the "bucket". These are just a few of their John Deeres!
Ready to roll...
The fresh corn finally appeared with dinner, compliments of Pat's brother Jim who raided Pat's brother Frank's cornfield. Thanks Frank!

The next day we headed north to Greenville and Moosehead Lake to visit our friend and high school classmate, Carol. Just before we left, Jim arrived with more fresh corn to take with us!! These were more "officially" from Frank.  Later, at the camp these accompanied chicken pies and a nice Black Prince Cabernet Franc (from Prince Edward County, Canada). it was a nice feast.

Looking over Moosehead Lake
Our most successfully stop on our brief shopping trip of Greenville was the Indian Hill Trading Post where Bill nabbed some shorts and Pat some capris. For lunch Pat went with lobster #2, this time in the form of a salad.

Diinner was raclette and fresh corn from Newport (bought from a stand in Greenville). The weather had been a little unsettled with some sun mixed with clouds and occasional thunder showers for the two days. The sky cleared and we got to see the brilliant starry sky Tuesday night (before it clouded in again). 

Next morning we are off for a little more shopping in Greenville and to visit the Dexter History Museum run by Carol’s brother Rick. We talked for a while with Rick about what was new and old around the museum and town.

Dexter Museum...with rescued signs from the Old Days and
a display (left side) featuring the "historical class of  '65"
After a picnic overlooking Lake Wassookeag we paid a visit to Bill’s cousin Charlie and family.  They are doing well and his daughter is starting high school in the fall. After her 8th grade trip to DC, Phila, & NYC she is determined to travel and inquired about San Miguel and our other travels.

After a relaxed morning we headed for the Garland store to get some supplies and to see Barbara Crispall, the younger sister of Pat’s childhood best friend Elaine. Then we were off to Bangor to stock up on wine and a get together with our niece Alyce. We had a little spare time before our evening get together and head off to the U of Maine for a look at the campus and a visit to the Alumni Office. There are still many recognizable buildings but they are almost lost among the new ones.   
Bill with Bananas the Bear, the U Maine mascot
We took a short drive into Old town and then headed to Veazie for dinner with Alyce and her husband Bill along with their son Cameron (and wife Erica), son Riley (and girlfriend Sarah), and daughter Angelyn along with Bill M’s mother Louise, his cousin Monica, and some friends.

On Friday we visited the Honda dealer in Bangor for routine maintenance after our 10,000 miles of travels since leaving Mexico. After lunch with sister-in-law Elaine Thomas in East Corinth we returned to Garland to visit Pat's childhood friend Elaine and her husband Peter Devine. We enjoyed tea with then at their totally off-the-grid home. ...But wait there is more, dinner with our niece Ginna and her fiancé Peter, her brother Paul and family (wife Jennifer & daughter Taylar) along with parents Frank (Pat's brother) and wife Anita.

Next day we were off for our week stay in Bar Harbor, home of Acadia National Park. Along the way we enjoyed lunch in Trenton...another Lobster (#3) for Pat and Scallops for Bill. The weather was fantastic (sunny, warm but not too hot) so we headed for the Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park for some photos at Sand Beach, Thunder Hole (very quiet) and Mt. Cadillac.
Lobster ...ready to eat
Visitors wondering where the surf and the thunder are at Thunder Hole .
Pat & Bill wondering if they took a wrong turn and are at a lake...
Honestly such flat water is totally unheard of at Acadia NP.
View over Frenchman's Bay and the Porcupine Islands from top of Mt Cadillac
We met Pat’s college roommate Terry and husband Jim for Sunday morning hike around Little Long Pond. The the trail went through examples of most of the vegetation on Mt Desert Island and also featured views of the lake and harbor. This trail is adjacent to the Rockefeller estate and we walked over, around and under his first carriage-road bridge, unique because it was made of cobblestones, not cut granite.
Water lilies in Little Long Pond
Blueberries along the trail
Loons in the bay at Seal Harbor
Lunch was at Colonel’s in North East Harbor. After lunch we checked out the shops there. We returned to Bar Harbor for a look at the Fine Arts/Craft Market and a few more shops.  
Another morning, another hike with Terry and Jim. This time we started at the Thuya Gardens parking lot on route 3 and hiked up to the gardens. Along  the way up we stopped for a few views and photos of the harbor. After a few more photos of the flowers in the garden we continued our trek. The trail had many variations, roads, well groomed trails and a few rustic areas of roots and rocks. Lunch at Jordan Pond consisted of clam chowder, potato chips and root beer.
View of lobster traps stored on a float in Northeast Harbor...first stop along our trail
Thuya Garden: Flowers with a shaft of sunlight
Thuya Garden: A dahlia captured by Pat in a Georgia O'Keeffe moment
Steps along the trail to Jordan Pond
Jordan Pond
After lunch we drove to Southwest Harbor for a stroll around town and to check out the shops. In “the old days” the west side of the island was ignored by most tourists. It may still be, but now it is marketed as “the quiet side” and gets plenty of visitors. It was amazing to see numerous cars stopped at each trailhead, trailheads that were deserted when Pat worked here 50 years ago. 

After two lovely days, the threat of rain hovered over us. We went out for a little shopping and lunch. We discovered Blaze, a restaurant that specializes in wood-fired cooking. We had a pizza with Foxglove Zin for Pat and Tobin James Notorious Cabernet for Bill. Nice. And we noted that they do a wood-fired grilled lobster. Hmm.

Peter and Mary arrived around 6pm and the rain began. We hung out a bit as our reservations at Red Sky Restaurant in Southwest Harbor were for 8:30pm. Driving over we had some heavy rain and were happy that Peter managed to park in front of Red Sky. Three of us had the lobster with risotto. Bill had the sole with roast cabbage. The sole was as good as expected. The cabbage was fabulous. Huh? Cabbage? Fabulous?  Yep. Wine-wise, we started with a Cremant (sparkling French wine) followed by a Viognier. 
Sole & Cabbage
Lobster and Risotto
Next day the rain abated and we are off to explore the Island with a stops at Schooner Head (the location of Anemone of the attractions Pat used to direct folks to when she worked for the National Park...but one that is no longer marketed in order to protect the sea anemones there), Thunder Hole and Hunter Beach.

In the vicinity of Thunder Hole
We left the park near the stables and headed to Northeast Harbor to visit Thuya Gardens. Yes, we had been there on Monday but they are so beautiful we wanted to share them with Peter and Mary. 
From the garden we went back to Southwest Harbor for lunch at Sips, two different risottos for Peter and Bill, a BLAT (bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato) for Mary and mussels for Pat. 

The final stop was Bass Harbor Light and  a walk on the rocks. The sun came out briefly and brought out many other visitors. Fortunately we were seconds ahead of them and got the last space. We first took the walk to the SW of the lighthouse. It had nice sun but it is not the best view. Then we went around to the NE side of the lighthouse. By then the fog had returned. The foggy views aren't what we were after, but they aren't bad.
Bass Harbor Light, lost in fog
Peter & Mary
Time was running out for Peter and Mary’s mini-vacation and we headed back to Bar Harbor to drop-off Pat and /Bill and head back to Garland. 

Mid-morning on Thursday we headed for the Abbe Museum (focused on native American history). There is a in-town facility and one that neighbors on the native wild-flower garden and the original monument from when Acadia was know as "Sieur-de-Monts National Monument). After viewing the exhibits about the British and French encounter with the local indians Pat discovered two books that could help us expand our knowledge of the pre-Columbian Americas. We'll order them later.

Heading back into Bar Harbor for lunch we stopped half-mile walk to Cromwell Harbor. One summer Pat lived near this but had never visited. It is a lovely harbor with views over Frenchman’s Bay. And it still has minimal visitors!  

For lunch we returned to Blaze.  Bill wanted the "Bacon-wrapped Buffalo Meatloaf". And Pat wanted to try the Wood-fired Grilled Lobster. The Meatloaf was excellent and Pat rated the Lobster the "best-ever"! It was a soft-shelled lobster that was a succulent as the best steamed lobster but enhanced with the smokie-ness of the grill. 

After lunch we took the "Shore Path" back to the harbor and then went on to Bar Island (accessible by a sand bar at low tide only). Again, in the old days NOBODY went to Bar Island. Today...we had lots of company.

View from the Bar Harbor Shore Path
View from Bar Island
A few of the MANY Cairns on Bar Island...building cairns seems to be the current fad.
On Friday we had one last hike with Jim & Terry. This time we started at the Abbe Museum.  We first hiked out to the water body formely called "The Tarn", but apparently it is not really a "tarn"...whatever that is. We returned back to the Abbe and on a lovely birch trail to an old cemetery, then to Kebo golf course and finally returned by way of a boardwalk. 
The waterbody formerly known as 'The Tarn"
Pat & Terry on a lovely birch lined trail
After our hike we headed to the "quiet side" for a picnic at the Charlotte Rhodes Butterfly Garden. 

Pat's niece Ginna and fiancé Peter drove down to join us for dinner.  It was great having more time with them. We went to the Side Street Cafe where we had mac and cheese (Bill had one with Jalapeños for a Mexican twist and, surprise, surprise...Pat had one with lobster). Ginna introduced us to a hard to fine ale..."Not your Father's Root Beer" , a spiced ale from Small Town Brewery in Wauconda, Ill....which is very hard to find in Maine.  Too bad we didn't know about it while we were in Wisconsin...

Tomorrow we start our trip down the Maine Coast.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Canada: Ontario & Montreal

We took the Detroit/Windsor crossing into Canada. It moved well and we were on our way to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Worthy of note, the density of wineries near Niagara-on-the-Lake rivals the wine regions of California. We soon realized this would require serious investigation. We launched our research at dinner at Hob Nob, starting with “Far & Away” Apassamiento Sauvignon Blanc from Foreign Affairs Winery. It was fine but not outstanding. For dinner we enjoyed  a Bitter Greens Salad, Seared Quebec Foie Gras (very tasty), sauteed lake Pickerel and Gnocchi with mushrooms. Good flavors.

Niagara-on-the-Lake is ridiculously beautiful. Plush green lawns, colorful flowers in gardens and pots surround every home and shop, clapboard houses that would fit right into New England (or upstate NY…which happens to be right across the river.)  
The town is also noted for it’s Shaw (as in George Bernard Shaw) Theater with a range of productions, at least four to choose from each day.  (We avoided choosing any, deeming this to be a pressure-free stop, i.e. a vacation from our vacation / no need to make decisions. We know there were many great shows over our few days there, but we’ll have more theater in our future…)

Keeping with our stress free approach, we signed up with See Sight tours for their Ultimate Niagara Falls Tour (recommended by our Innkeeper.) Then we took the Parkway along the Niagara River to Niagara Falls. The Parkway is green and lush, lined with perfectly manicured homes, wineries, golf courses, and fruit stands. We made several stops along the way, not really knowing the specifics.  Several of these stops were also on our tour and our guide enlightened us re the details later. Details and photos are below.

At 3pm we met up with our guide and  tour group (a couple from the States and a German University student with his Dad). We new that the Falls, even the US side, face Canada, and that the best views are from Canada. We learned that the best lighting is in the afternoon/evening. To our good fortune, our timing was spot on. We visited the Skylon Tower (good views over the falls and surrounding countryside), and the Journey Behind the Falls (views from the overlook are great, the view from directly behind the Falls is basically no view at all, just a steam of water with nothing to distinguish it).

The American Falls from the Skylon Tower
The Canadian Falls from the Skylon Tower
Pat & Bill on the "Behind the Falls" Tour
Likely we would have taken the cruise next but there were massive lines. So our guide took us along the parkway toward Niagara-on-the-Lake and explained that:

  • the first scenic overlook we had visited in the AM is where the Falls were initially  located millions of years ago.
  • the spot with the impressive rapids is a turn in the river that results in numerous whirlpools. There is also a cable car crossing there that appears to cross from the US to Canada, which is mind boggling in this day and age of security. But wait, somehow, because of the bend, there are 3 “sides of the river” here and the crossing is really to and from Canada.
  • the Floral Clock was a present to the community from Canada Power as a bribe or a thank-you for allowing them to mar the nearby area with a huge concrete power station.

View from Scenic Overlook viewing original location of the Falls
Whirlpool Rapids. Note: Cable crosses the river from Canada to Canada.
The point in the left center is in the US.
Floral Clock
When we arrived at the Hornblower Cruise (the Maid of the Mist is now only a US operation), the lines had disappeared. We learned that the US and Canadian cruises take turns cruise by the American Falls and “into” the Canadian falls with schedules offset by 15 minutes or so. So we had our views without interference of other boats. We were all equipped with little plastic raincoats. Still on a cold day, it can be quite chilly. Luckily our day was nice and warm.
The American Falls from below 
The Canadian Falls from below
Day 2 we decided it was time for wine tasting, starting at Inniskillin, noted for the Ice Wine (a dessert wine that results from first letting the grapes freeze on the vines.) It’s available in the US but it’s quite expensive. We had some years ago as a gift from our friend Shelly. Either they have expanded the line considerably or they save the rest of their work for Canadian consumption. Our samplings included Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay (2), Pinot Noir (2) and, naturally, ice wine. 3 ice wines to be precise, one form riesling, one from vidal blanc (the original, a grape from Germany), and one from cabernet franc (very yummy and about $100 Canadian for a 1/2 bottle). Our favorites were the Viognier and 2 ice wines, the Vidal and the Cab Franc.

Pat, Bill and 3 Inniskillin Ice Wines
We stopped for lunch at Two Sisters Winery. Lunch consisted of focaccia and salad with Sauvignon Blanc, and a beef panini with Cabernet Franc. Quite good, we especially liked the Cab Franc, this grape really shines in the Niagara area.

Later we went to the University run Botanical Gardens and Butterfly house. The butterfly house was quite fun (see photos). 

A true "Kodak Moment" at the Butterfly House

Day 3 we decided to check out the shops in Niagara on the Lake. There are the usual offerings (gifts, knick-knacks, kitchen gear, a range of clothing types, bakeries, …) and a wine tasting room. The wine tasting (sparkling wine first followed by reds) was the most successful stop for us and we ended up with two bottles to add to our collection and 4 stemless Riedel champagne glasses. Note: By now our wine collection had dwindled because we were limited to two bottles each (or high duties) when crossing into Canada. 

We enjoyed the sign in front of the Pub but decided to have lunch at Cork’s - caesar salad and fish and chips (claimed to be #1) with more beer (Mill Street Tankhouse Ale and Cork’s Dark….Hemp Beer). 

Honest. Pat had no idea the recommended beer was Hemp Beer.
Yes, that detail was on the menu but she went on the waiter's recommendation.
She also noticed no "Buzz" from the beer.
After lunch we headed back for one more opportunity to view and photograph the Falls. We felt 100 photos were not enough!!! The walk along the river above Horseshoe Falls fulfilled our need. Now we have photos from nearly every angle manageable and we got one more opportunity to relax and enjoy watching the water flow over the dam. It is extremely captivating.

From Niagara we moved on to Kingston Ontario to visit Mike & Carol (friends who winter in San Miguel). We had the choice of taking the shorter (in length) route around the east end of Lake Ontario…with two Border Crossings or the longer route through Toronto. With highways, driving through cities is fine and Toronto has plenty of highways to choose from. All of them are PACKED with traffic and the traffic goes on for miles into and out of the city. So the drive was fine, yet intense.

Later Mike & Carol took us on a walk around the city. The city dates back to the 17th century when Kingston first became a trading and shipping center on Lake Ontario.
A lovely fountain in downtown Kingston
Kingston Harbor with a Martello Tower (Gun Tower) in the background.
Nearby Prince Edward County is a growing wine area and was the target for Saturday. Mike drove us to the ferry and through lunch at the East & West Bistro. Wineries included The Devil’s Wishbone, Country Cider Company (with a range of ciders including ice cider...which we assume is made from apples that froze...but we neglected to ask), Waupoos Estate, Black Prince, and the Black River cheese Company …. 

Pat & Bill learning to tell "wine time"
A selection of ciders (including ice cider).
After lunch Carol drove us to the Rosehall Run, Sandbanks, Huff, Norman Hardie wineries and back to Kingston. A very informative day on the wines and producers. We also had an opportunity to talk with the local cooper who makes barrel aged vinegar. ..BEST WINE: Sandbanks Baco Noir.

Charred barrel staves ready to be reassembled into a wine barrel.
(Note they are charred as a barrel and we also neglected to inquire why they are later disassembled... Sigh) 

Sunday we were off to the “fresh” market. Mike had promised us a selection of pierogis but the vendor was off at a Ukranian Festival. So we settled for some fine cinnamon rolls from another vendor. We tasted a little wine (who us?) and bought fresh corn for dinner. Following a short stop back at the house and we are off to the downtown flea market where we found a few paperback books to supplement our reading supplies.

That evening we took a drive around Kingston, crossing over to Fort Henry with it’s old fortress, museum, military school and active military base. The museum, in a Martello (Gun) Tower has an extensive collection of weapons.  

On the road toward Montreal in the morning we made a short stop for lunch at Marco's Bar & Grill in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, a small village on the river’s edge just after you cross onto the island of Montreal. Our grilled scallop appetizer and an arugula, pine nut and parmigiana salad made a fine light meal. 

Main Street of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue
We arrived in Montreal a little before our apartment was ready and walked to Park du Mont Royal for a view over the city from Chalet du Mont Royal. In case you have forgotten High School French, "Mont" is French for Mountain, so this walk entailed quite a climb.

View of Montreal from Mont Royal
The area around our apartment included a spectrum of world cultures from Europe and Asia. Just around the corner was Boca Iberica, offering Portuguese Tapas - Iberico Ham, Sweet Breads, mushrooms, sliced fried potatoes with aioli, and wine from the Douro Valley in Portugal. We finished the meal with a dessert made from fruit, nuts and chocolate.
Our evening snack at Boca Iberica
The next day we purchased Metro passes and made our way to the Montreal Botanic Gardens. Getting there we passed by the Olympic Site with an impressive structure. We thought it was especially cool how the roof was designed to look like snow drifts.

The snow drifts on top of the Olympic stadium
The garden includes  an Insectarium (quite a collection of  bugs - the good, the bad and the ugly). Some are quite colorful.

Walking back to the metro we noticed that the grounds of the Olympic Stadium are prepared to provide many active options including pickle ball, and a ropes course. 

Next stop: Old Town for lunch (pasta with prosciutto, endive with blue cheese for Pat and smoked salmon, pine nuts and capers for Bill) and a pinot nor from the Niagara region. We wandered around Old Town and along the Riverfront. There are lots of souvenir shops and restaurants. But also, another interesting amusement park, this one  with climbing walls, zip lines, as well as a ropes course with challenges for kids of all ages.

A colorful Ropes Course on the Montreal waterfront
As we continued to explore the Old Town, we came upon the Notre Dame Basilica. The apse is especially striking. Pat also liked the stained glass windows with the Native Americans.

Day 3 we decided to check out the Montreal shopping experience and headed to St Catherine’s street. From St Catherine’s Street level, it is just a bunch of the usual stores, quite a few in mall’s, some standalone. We needed to check out the mall a little more, but first, we were headed to “The Bay”. Thirty plus years ago, as we drove through Canada on our move to California, Pat discovered that she like "The Bay" (short for The Hudson Bay Company), a Macy’s like store but still not owned by Federated. It is now basically a Macy’s by another name. Disappointing. Nothing against Macy’s, but variety is the spice of life. 

We next aimed for the Archeology and History Museum and along the way discovered that the street side malls on St Catherine Street, and others like them, tend to have lower levels that connect to the metro and to other like malls. This is what is known as “The Underground City” that enables locals to shop mid-winter (or anytime) without going outside. Instead of a photo, just imagine any shopping center anywhere.

Pointe-à-Callière Museum of Archaeology and History occupies the actual spot where Iroquois people once had an encampment and later European adventurers traded furs. The visit starts with a narrated film projected on to a 270-degree "screen" around the excavations of the 17th-century Catholic cemetery. Not only does the screen surround you horizontally, but it is also below you with the film projected down on the excavations. Interesting story.

The museum features the history of Montreal (from geological formation, through the various immigrations to today). It was quite interesting. It also had a special exhibit - "The Aztecs", also quite well done although we’d seen most of the pieces at Templo Mayor (the Aztec Temple) in Mexico City. In fact, while we were not allowed to take photos, we have photos of all the key pieces (taken in Mexico...see below).

Having missed out on the Perogies for lunch with Michael & Carol, we headed the nearby Stash’s Cafe for a Polish lunch ...Perogies and Kielbasa with sauerkraut and potato salad with a nice French Red wineChateau de Gourgezaud minervois. We are not sure if it is authentically Polish but we followed this with coffee and apple crisp. 

Apple Crisp. One of Pat's favorites.
After lunch we headed to The Biodome, basically an inside zoo featuring 5 different ecosystems of the Americas: Tropical Rainforest, Laurentian Maple Forest, The Gulf of St. Lawrence, Labrador Coast, and Sub-Antarctic Islands. It is a fairly unique (to us) spin on a zoo and well done.
In the Tropical Rainforest Exhibit...cute bird
Fairy Penguin in the Sub-Antartic Exhibit
Pat hiding behind a waterfall
A sturgeon
The French entry in the International Fireworks competition was scheduled for 10pm, so we we had a snack at “home” and headed out to the harbor. Since there are similar competitive shows twice a week (Wednesday & Friday(?), there were plenty of spectators but it wasn’t a mob scene. And the Fireworks were truly good but not impressive … Keep in mind we get to see lots of fireworks in Mexico and they have only gotten more spectacular over the years.

Next up: Maine