Once again, we had a beautiful, sunny day, but boy, was it windy! After fueling up and pumping out at Gaines Marina in Rouses Point, we found the border crossing dock with no problem, but getting tied up to the dock was another story! The wind was whipping out of the east, and we needed to tie up to the customs dock on the east side of the lake. Misty was getting pushed away from the dock…hard. Remember that Nancy is still a bit gimpy with her foot. All we can say is that there was a lot of rolling around on the dock on Nancy’s part, as she worked to secure the boat by herself, and grab railings to get her fanny back off the dock. Not easy, and clearly comical. The Border Agents were a young man and a young woman, and both had a grin on their faces when we entered the office. I asked them if they had seen “that” (me tying up the boat and rolling all over the dock). They just nodded and kept grinning, trying not to laugh! We’re sure that they had a good laugh after we left, but they were lovely, and we had an easy pass across into Canada.
Leaving the U.S. border behind & Fort Lennox, Richelieu River, Quebec, Canada
Our goal was St. Jean de Richelieu, where there is a free wall for electric, and we were following other Loopers who were set to be there as well. It was a beautiful, and peaceful ride. Once we got settled, we set off on our bikes in search of the market and patisserie we had read and heard about. We were not disappointed!
Scenes around the Chambly Canal in St. Jean, Quebec, and a boat named Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville
Les Halles St. Jean Market
We found Boulangerie Bissonnette, a wonderful Patisserie and cheese store recommended by a fellow Looper! Delicious bread and pastries were enjoyed!
Upon returning to the boat, we connected with Janice & Steve/Nomadic Spirit and Jayne & Jonathan/Bella Gatto and their friend Mary Kay, and had everyone over for “docktails” on our aft deck.
St. Jean had a lovely park along the locks, with gardens, beautiful sculptures, and a piano. At the time, we didn’t know that this was a “thing” in Quebec, but after venturing out after dinner, we learned that the locals love to gather and share their talent, and we were happy to listen! We spotted pianos in several small towns in our Canadian travels, and even saw one in Montreal.
The park along the Chambly Canal
The locks on the Chambly Canal and the canal itself are very narrow. It’s a beautiful ride, with walking/running/biking trails all along the way. The Canals are a spectacle for the locals, and they have picnic areas with tables and grills so everyone can enjoy their lunch and wine (sometimes with a table cloth!). They clearly love watching a bunch of nervous boaters navigating their boats through the tiny locks!
Happy picnickers along the canal!
The parks and homes along the canal are filled with gardens, trees and wildflowers, and every lock has a garden. There was even an outdoor art exhibit in one of the canal-side parks!
The town of Chambly sits at the top of the last set of locks on the canal, a “flight” of 3 locks. After getting settled in, we wandered into town for a late lunch with the crews of Bella Gatto and Nomadic Spirit. A couple of other “Loopers”, God’s Grace and Salty, arrived later in the afternoon, and we enjoyed swapping travel stories with everyone while enjoying “docktails” in the park along the canal.
Jonathan & Rosa (Salty), Nancy, Mary Kay (guest of Bella Gatto), Ken & Celeste (God’s Grace), Jonathan & Jane (Bella Gatto) & Janice (Nomadic Spirit)
A line of Loopers on the wall at Chambly, different lights
These Canadian locks are especially interesting, as they are all manually controlled! The staff at each and every lock is absolutely amazing. They’re largely young college kids, with some more adult/senior supervision, super friendly, diligent, serious about their jobs, and overall a pleasure to deal with. Our only complaint was that some of them are green, and easily influenced by some bossy boaters, and we ended up with an unfortunate pairing for the last of the Chambly Locks. Parks Canada staff were pushed by other boaters to pattern the lock throughs in a particular way, which led to Misty being locked through with another 45′ boat. Due to the “overloading” of the lock, on the third “step” of this lock, Misty nearly lost her rub rail, due to a 2′ bulge in the wall, and Rob was forced to cut the lock line. Lesson learned: speak up, louder, and never allow someone else to dictate your plan. It’s about boating, docking and locking safely, not socially.
We continued on the Richelieu to Sorel, where we had a reservation for a slip at Parc Nautique de Sorel just east of the canal on the St. Lawrence River.
The last leg of the Richelieu before hitting the St. Lawrence
It was another beautiful night, but we were both physically and emotionally exhausted after a trying day, so Rob decided that we should enjoy a leisurely dinner at the marina restaurant rather than cooking. An excellent plan! The food was just OK (although the cheese served on a hot stone to cook was pretty yummy!), service worse, but we were sitting on a second story deck overlooking the main dock of the marina enjoying the sunset with a chilly glass of wine. It was perfect!
Dinner and sunset over Parc Nautique de Sorel
As predicted, the next day was overcast and rainy. It rained for most of the day, and we had a few downpours. This stretch of the river is pretty industrial, so we weren’t missing much!
We were going against the current, and as we got closer to Montreal, it intensified. A couple of miles before the Yacht Club of Montreal entrance, just before the Jaques-Cartier Bridge, we encountered currents up to 7 mph!
YIKES!! Look at that current!
We were happy to get settled in Montreal, and the marina crew was outstanding! Kim and Debbie (and her friendly poodle, Olive) in the office are amazing, along with all of the other staff and dock hands. They bent over backwards to accommodate our continuous requests to extend our stay (we changed our plans 3X, originally staying for 3 nights, and ended up staying 7!), gave us great recommendations on restaurants and things to do in the city, and directions every time we borrowed their beautiful, new courtesy mini-van. The facilities are updated and spotless (with clean towels in the shower!), the location is right in the heart of Old Town, plus, they are AGLCA sponsors, so they provide a 15% discount to members. Since we were there for a week, they gave us the weekly rate, which was even lower than the AGLCA rate. It was an incredible bargain to stay in the heart of Old Montreal…a must stop for boaters in the area!
We have been to Montreal several times, but never loved it. In defense of the City, we went in Fall or Winter. Summer time in Old Montreal is sooooo much better, as there are a million things going on, most especially at the waterfront, and we took advantage of a lot of it.
On our first day, we wandered around Old Town, and had a fabulous dinner at Modavie (thank you Kim from YCM for the recommendation!). We told Kim we wanted a traditional, cozy French Bistro, and that’s exactly what we got….wonderful and delicious! It was a beautiful night, and after dinner we wandered over to the ferris wheel and took a ride. It delivered great views of the harbor and Old Montreal.
Notre-Dam-de-Bon-Secours Chapel, built in 1771, one of the oldest churches in Montreal. This was a pilgrimage for sailors returning from sea to give their thanks for a safe journey.
Fun Ferris wheel ride, and Misty down there in the Yacht-Club Montreal
Yacht Club Montreal truly offers the ideal location for a stay in this wonderful city. We loved our first night there, when we discovered that the Clock Tower and the Jacques-Cartier Bridge are a big part of Montreal’s Cite Memoire Light show. During the summer months (Tuesday – Sunday evenings), there are 19 light and video projections all over Old Montreal that were created to celebrate the history of this old city. The lights go on every hour on the hour all over Old Town. There is an ongoing video show on the clock tower, and the bridge sparkles and radiates with moving lights all night long.
On top of that, the Cirque de Soleil folks have created the PY1 Pyramid, that is a sound and light show with music, that also projects images on the outside of the Pyramid, which we had a front row seat for from our boat!
The ever changing PY1 Pyramid
Montreal is an ever changing canvas. The light show is just the beginning. When you wander the streets, you will notice murals and sculptures everywhere.
We took advantage of the courtesy car and drove over to Atwater Market. WOW!! We had read and heard about this market, and it lived up to the hype. You are greeted by flowers everywhere…in the market itself, but also along the road alongside the market, which was lined with pink and white tuberous rose bushes…both beautiful and fragrant!
The beautiful and delicious Atwater Market
Then, there’s the market, where the flower stalls are beautifully arranged to best showcase the plants. When you walk into the fruit and veggie part of the market, everything is just as beautiful, colorful, and artfully arranged as the flowering plants! There’s a wonderful old grocery store, that offers large, unique collections of oils, teas, coffees, jams, cookies, crackers and oh…so much more! We had fun and bought a bunch of yummy stuff!
This trip would not be complete without going inside the market building, where you will find cheese mongers (yum, favorite part, got some delicious, both new and familiar cheeses!), butchers, patisseries, coffee spots, and more. We came away with a treasure trove of fruits, veggies, mustards, cookies, cheeses, sausages, and yes, those incredible croissants.
Our next stop was the Montreal Botanical Gardens. This was a must visit for several reasons, but Nancy was particularly happy that there was a trolley tour available (minimize walking!), and she was in a garden! We spent some time in their lovely greenhouses, enjoying the orchids, ferns and succulents, before venturing out to the rose, Japanese, shade and flowering gardens. So much was in bloom! It was a hot day, but we enjoyed all of it!
The Garden is across the street from the site of the 1976 Olympics. While the tower and stadium still stand, there is some controversy about the usefulness of the site, and the maintenance of the grounds and tower facilities. It does make for a dramatic backdrop to the gardens, and we also saw the Tower looming through the fog heading into Montreal on the St. Lawrence River.
When we were in Montreal last Christmas, we visited the Basilica de Notre Dam. The Cathedral is magnificent, and we had read that there is a laser light show inside the Church throughout the week called Aura. So for $24 Canadian bucks each, we saw one of the most spectacular shows we have ever seen, hands down. No pictures are allowed once the show begins, which is perfect, as using this beautiful church as a palate is something to be seen and savored without distraction. The church is nearly dark when you enter, with the exception of some back lighting on the altar, and changing light scenes along the side aisles. Get there early, walk around, sit centrally and look all around you, because things are already happening, but they’re subtle. At 6:15, the church went completely dark, and then, well…beyond description. When the show was over, and the lights went up, the entire audience in this packed, huge cathedral was still…no one moved for several minutes to get up, as we were all stunned by what we had just seen. Spectacular…just go!!
We tried as much as possible to experience the light shows of Cite Memoire throughout the city. It was fun to spot things as you looked up or rounded a corner. One night, we caught a viewing of the “Beaver Rebellion”, projected on the side wall of a beautiful old stone building on Place Jacques-Cartier in Old Town.
The Beaver Rebellion
Faces projected on the trees
The next night we got tickets to Cirque de Soleil, and we’re so glad we did! This was a more athletic performance for the troupe, who is based here in Montreal. It was amazing, and a lot of fun to watch under their “Big Top” on the waterfront.
Allegria, Cirque de Soleil
In researching things to explore in town, Nancy came across a special museum: The Barbie Expo!! According to Trip Advisor, it’s the #1 museum to visit while in Montreal. Clearly, Rob had NO interest, and was perfectly happy to stay at the marina and give Misty a bath!! The Expo is tucked into Les Cours Mont Royal, a prestigious upscale shopping mall that sells all of the high end, designer wear that over 1,000 Barbies model in the exhibit. This is the largest permanent collection of Barbie dolls in the world! Admission is free, and the space is beautiful, covered in black & white marble, with a fountain/pool, surrounded by white orchids and chrystal chandelier accents. Some of the designers on display include Christian Dior, Donna Karan, Armani, Vera Wang, Bob Mackie, Zac Posen, and many other fashion icons. Some dolls are dressed to represent the countries of the world, others are stars from TV shows & movies, fashion models, iconic brands and more. And, it wouldn’t be a Barbie exhibit if it didn’t have her in a slew of wedding gowns.
My Uber driver back to the marina LOVES his city of Montreal (he had guide books to share!), and talked about his favorite restaurants and city highlights our whole ride. We checked out one suggestion that night for dessert: Queues De Castor for ice cream and Beaver Tails, a delicacy in Quebec! We sat in the park across the street and devored our treats. We were stuffed, so we wandered around the streets of Old Montreal, enjoying the lights of the city.
After looking at the light show on the clocktower for days, we finally took a walk out to it for a closer look. We were glad we did, as it’s remarkable!
La Ronde is a Six Flags amusement park that sits on St. Helen’s Island (sight of Expo ’67, a memorable family vacation for Nancy back in the day), across the river from the marina. On Saturday night, we were treated to their fantastic fireworks show from the park, with the marina boats and Jacques-Cartier bridge in the foreground.
Canada Day is July 1, and Montreal was packed! There were all kinds of vendors and bands enhancing the already active waterfront, and it was crowded. We did swing by the “cake tent”, where they had a huge Canada Birthday Cake, but an hour before it opened, in 90+ degree heat and high humidity, the line was ridiculous….so, no cake for us! As the evening approached, the streets around the waterfront were closed off, and it was a great night to ride our bikes around the city.
Before heading to the Montreal Archaeological & History Museum (Cite Histoire et d’Archaeologie de Montreal) we checked out another restaurant suggested by my Uber driver: Chez Suzette. As recommended, we enjoyed a breakfast of delicious Crepes.
The Archaeological & History Museum stands over the remains of St. Anne’s Market and the Williams Sector Sewer, and shares the history of the city. It’s absolutely fascinating!
The Archaeological & History Museum
Views of Montreals Old City underground…and yes, some LeMoyne’s were involved!
Montreal Piano outside the Musee D’Archeologie et D’Histoire
The Montreal Jazz Festival was in full swing while we were there. We wandered over to the venue and enjoyed some music despite the heat!
Montreal Jazz Fest
We then visited the Chateau de Ramezay, just off Place Jacques Cartier. Built in 1705, the Chateau was the residence of then-governor of Montreal, Claude de Ramezay. This is the first building proclaimed a historic monument in Quebec, and is the province’s oldest private history museum. This small museum is surrounded by beautiful gardens that are accessible to the public.
Chateay de Ramezay
When you’re in Montreal, food is king! The markets, restaurants and patisseries abound, and it’s all good. While wandering around, we came across a patisserie, and the macaroons were delicious!
Yummy treats !
Scenes around the city…from street performers, food trucks, beautiful parks, architecture, arts, and even friendly free hug guys, Montreal has it all!
After exploring Montreal for a week, it was time to move on. Au revoir, Montreal, until we meet again…and we will!!