We dedicated last Thursday to life maintenance (laundry, groceries, etc.), which was perfect for the drizzly day. It was at the laundromat that we first learned of the Malaysian flight being shot down and of the Israelis invading Gaza. Is the world always so violent and it's only when you step back that you notice it? Either way, it's sad news on all fronts and our thoughts are with everybody impacted by all this.
Friday turned out to be an absolutely perfect day for another hike. We chose Ampersand Mountain because it was in a part of the park we had not yet seen and because the views were supposed to be beautiful. On our way to the trail head we stopped at a mountaineering store in Keene where Ryan was FINALLY able to get an altimeter! He was, and still is, so excited!
The first part of the hike was gentle and through a pretty wooded area. While the hike was only 1700' of elevation gain over a couple miles, it was almost entirely at the end and straight up rock staircases, rock faces, and wedging ourselves between rocks. At 3300' we had finally made it. There was a small crowd lunching at the summit, so we waited them out and hung back. Once they finally left, we had the mountain top to ourselves for quite a while. It wasn't nearly as cold and windy as the top of Cascade Mountain, so we were able to really enjoy the peace and the view comfortably. The area surrounding Ampersand Mountain has all sorts of small lakes with tiny rock islands in the middle which made for a great view.
After descending we met a sweet couple from Quebec who were cruising around in their MG. Ryan struck up a conversation with them and it turned out they were from Longueuil, the city we planned on staying in outside of Montreal. They gave us all sorts of good tips. Our legs were wobbly and we were exhausted, so we picked up some dinner and headed back to camp.
Saturday morning we packed up the camper and headed north toward Montreal. The border crossing was a breeze this time because we anticipated most of the questions and had put together answers that would (hopefully) not rouse any suspicion. It worked and we breezed through without any secondary questioning or searching of our vehicles.
Our home base outside of Montreal was the Marina in Longueuil, just across the river from Montreal. After a very confusing route in and taking several wrong turns, we finally made it. The campground section of the marina leaves much to be desired, but it was OK since our plan was to spend most of our time in Montreal. For the price, we really couldn't beat the location and the convenience of being a short walk to the Metro or taking the ferry from the same marina to downtown Montreal.
We didn't realize how close Montreal was to the US border, so we were able to unhitch on Saturday and still had plenty of time to head into Montreal for some cursory exploring. We walked to the Metro and took the short trip under the river to downtown. Our first stop was Mont Royal, the huge hill near downtown Montreal and the city's namesake. We climbed to the chateau and took in the beautiful overlook of the city.
From Mont Royal, we walked to Old Montreal, the section of the city containing the historic buildings that has the feel of being in Paris. We accidentally came across the Just for Laughs festival in the Latin Quarter where we had dinner, a glass of wine, and I was the victim of a mime who pretended to steal my wine. We continued our walk around and went to the marina. We finally made our way back to the Metro which we took back to Longueuil. On our walk back from the Metro we noticed that there were several streets closed off and people everywhere. We asked a woman what it was all about and it turns out that there are fireworks every Saturday night during the summer just because it's summer and boy did people turn out for it!
Yesterday was a warm, humid day in Montreal and we spent it exploring by foot once again. We took the Metro into downtown for some lunch (bahn mi!) and then took the Metro out to Ile Sainte-Helene. There was some sort of festival for children taking place, but we braved the strollers and crossed the bridge to Ile Notre Dame where we walked nearly the entire Grand Prix circuit. When there isn't a race the road is used for parking and for bicycling and rollerblading. We also saw the Olympic Basin where they held boat races.
After walking the circuit, we crossed back to Ile Sainte-Helene where we tried to walk through the Piknic Electronik, but they were charging for it so instead we listened while walking around it. Once again dodging the stroller army, we made our way back to the Metro and back to downtown. We strolled through some parks and back to Old Montreal where we rested our aching feet. We decided to treat ourselves to a ferry ride back to camp where we opted for a no-cook dinner of cheese, bread, olives, salads, and watermelon. It was more of a picnic inside our camper.
This morning we packed up camp and made our way to our current location at Sous-Bois du Campeur, just across the river from Quebec City. I'm a little nervous because nearly everybody in Montreal spoke French and perfect English, but the English is getting harder to come by and is definitely more piecemeal. At first I was miffed that in the rest of the country (and even in northern New York state) all road signs (and products) are, by law, in English and French, but in Quebec they are only in French. I am starting to notice that they accommodate a little by having most of the signs as pictures which has led to some pretty funny signs. Even the deer leap across the road in French here! My favorite so far is one of the emergency pictures from our ferry ride in Montreal. It was posted next to the life jacket containers an I still have no idea what it means. If you can figure it out, please let me know. To me it looks like business people with smaller business people inside of them need to run to this central location.
Tomorrow we will head into Quebec and tour North America's only walled city north of Mexico. There is a restaurant that claims to be the birthplace of poutine which Ryan hopes to sample. From here we will head to the Gaspe peninsula and then east to New Brunswick and the rest of the maritimes. Au revoir!