A Travellerspoint blog

To Frankfurt and on to Amsterdam

overcast 3 °C
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Day 46 Sunday 31 October – To Reykjavik

An excellent breakfast to start our last day in Canada then a final check of the luggage and we check out at about 11. The 747 bus is an express from down-town to the airport and there's a stop just down from the hotel. The bus is configured to carry the large pieces of luggage and the travellers at a cost of just $7 each, a great deal. The only catch is that the fare must be paid in coins, no provision is available to pay with bank notes.

Check-in at the Air Canada desk for the start of our journey through the airport. The terminal is divided into three section, one for USA destinations, a second for other International destinations and the third for Domestic travellers. We are processed through the USA section even though we are headed for Frankfurt because we are going via Boston. Our baggage is checked through to Frankfurt, that's the easy part.

Next we encounter the first Security check. Remove your belt, boots, watch and almost strip to your jocks. Next stop is US Immigration, full hand scan, digital photo and we are permitted to enter the air-side. Not the best or friendliest departure area ever, we find there are only three food outlets, Burger King, a fancy licensed bar/restaurant and a middle of the road bistro. I also converted my remaining Canadian dollars to Euro.

At the appointed time we board for the 48 minute flight to Boston. On arrival we are required to take the shuttle to the International Terminal for the Iceland Air check-in desk. A large queue and eventually we are issued with boarding passes for this and the next leg of the journey. Just for good measure we are subjected to another rigorous Security check. While waiting at the Iceland Air departure area we watched the ground staff for Virgin Atlantic arrive in a variety of costumes in celebration of Halloween.

The flight to Reykjavik is about 5 hours and we try unsuccessfully to catch some sleep. We set our clock forward by 5 hours as Iceland uses the GMT time zone. We disembark and are required to pass through yet another Security check and have our passports stamped.

Day 47 Monday 1 November – To Frankfurt

A relatively short three and a half hour flight has us in Frankfurt and another we advance the clock another hour. There's a 'technical problem' with the baggage handling equipment but eventually we're re-united with our checked cases, mine somewhat the worse for wear. Nothing to declare and no Customs check, no-one even asked to see our passport.

There are thousands of people and their luggage carts and we start the adventure of finding our way to the hotel. First we have to board the shuttle to Terminal 1 to find the S-Bahn station. We ask various people for directions and find ourselves going up and back down a number of escalators as we try to follow different instructions. Finally we find the ticket machine hall where we join a scrum of likewise confused travellers. A very helpful employee walks us through the process and I spend my first Euros.

We crowd aboard a very fast train that takes us to the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (the central station). A massive structure with huge crowds milling about, there may have been a special event but I suspect it is like this on a regular basis. Out on the street and we try to find our way to the Holiday Inn Express on Gutleut Str. Again some confusion about directions and finally we relent and find a taxi, just as well as the hotel is quite a distance away in a mainly Industrial area. There is a widespread network of buses, trams and trains and we'll look into it tomorrow.

The man at the desk is most helpful and shortly we are in a very comfortable modern room on the 6th floor. First order of business is to catch up on some sleep. When we wake again at about 7 we decide to miss out on dinner and wait until breakfast.

Overnight air travel with today’s Security regime is no joke and I'll have to think long and hard before I sign up for another similar exercise.

Day 48 Tuesday 2 November – In Frankfurt

We slept through most of the night and wandered down to breakfast at about 7:30. What would be known as a Continental Breakfast consisted of cold dishes, cereals, breads, sliced meat, cheese and fruit. I may have overdone my intake because I felt very uncomfortable and had to hit the bed for half an hour.

We misjudged the temperature and by the time we walked to the Central Station we were decidedly cold. Checked out departure arrangements for the trip to Amsterdam and marvelled again at the size of this building. Bought an all-day transport ticket and boarded a tram to the old city centre. Many spectacular buildings including churches, the old city hall and large buildings now housing museums. By about noon we were starting to feel the chill and I wasn't all that flash so we headed back to the hotel.

Slept away most of the afternoon with Jenny fussing over me trying to ensure that I was OK. I suspect I have a bit of a fever and figure that rest and liquids will sort me out.

Day 49 Wednesday 3 November – To Amsterdam

Up about 6 and breakfast by 7, order a cab for 8 and check out. Short taxi ride to the station and we are way too early. About 30 minutes before departure time we find the train and stand for a while, imagine our surprise when it breaks in 2 and the front half with our Car No leaves the station. So we walk back to check out the piece left behind. Sure enough it has changed its identity and IT is now our train.

We board and find our seats, then the fun begins. By the due departure time there's an announcement that there is a 'technical' problem with the train's computer – they will have to re-boot the system. That fails to resolve the problem and some of the passengers with internal destinations are advised to transfer to alternate trains, WE are told to stay put for now. After a while they return what was the front bit of the train and reconnect it, this solves the problem and some 45 minutes late we leave Frankfurt.

The train rockets along at about 250 Km/Hr and the countryside flashes by. The autumn colours are everywhere and there are little towns and big cities and agricultural fields on both sides. Unfortunately there is no opportunity to take any photos.

Arrived in Amsterdam about one hour behind schedule. Found some very helpful people at the tourist information office who guided us onto the correct tram. 5,20 € brought us almost outside the hotel. The room is small but adequate and we will be out and about most of the time. Catching up with the laundry is becoming an urgent issue.

Will update again in a few days, the WiFi is in the lobby and I don't like sitting down there too long.

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Posted by greynomadm 08:56 Archived in Netherlands Comments (2)

Quebec City to Montreal

rain 3 °C

Day 45 Saturday 30 October – To Montreal

Checked-out of the Hotel and piled our stuff into David and Linda's car and set off to Montreal. Traffic is light and before long we are crossing the St Lawrence River and heading West. Along the way we passed a number of sales yards filled to overflowing with caravans, mobile homes and other Recreation vehicles. There must have been several hundred.

Another yard was filled with all manner of buses including the traditional School Buses. David thinks that this unsold stock is due to the general economic down-turn. The weather turns ordinary and there's a hint of snow in the air and sure enough we enter an area where there's evidence of recent snow. All along the route there are large grain silos and cropping land.

As we approach Montreal the amount of traffic increases and the number of main road intersections becomes quite bewildering. Linda manages again to find the way to our hotel without having to back-track or stop for directions. You'd have to have driven in Montreal to appreciate just how difficult that is.

We checked in and went for a walk in the freezing rain to pick up some essential items. We noticed a large number of bikes in a rack outside a subway station, they are obviously available for rent, I have no further information.

Too cold and wet to walk too far so went back to the hotel. Our room is actually a studio with a bedroom, bathroom and a living room with a kitchen. The style of accommodation you'd want if you were staying for a week. Very nice just for a day too.

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Posted by greynomadm 17:29 Archived in Canada Comments (2)

Vieux Quebec

rain 5 °C
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Day 44 Friday 29 October – Vieux-Quebec

Don't let the maps fool you, distances in the city are not all horizontal, there is quite a difference in elevations and when you walk back and forth the downhill doesn't appear to compensate for the uphill. Despite a cold wind and occasional drizzle we were out and about from 8 to 5 and walking most of that time.

I'm not going to try and describe the wonder of this city, there are books that could be written. I'll mention the places and things that stood out. Firstly the railway station, most spectacular of the stations we've seen and it is still in use and connects with the long distance buses. From there the board-walk along the waterfront which must be the most extensive wooden decking anywhere – quite enormous. Across the water the extensive grain handling facilities which double as a canvas for projected lights and images. Past the very modern cruise ship terminal to the Place-Royale.

The area at the foot of the escarpment near the ferry terminal is maze of narrow streets, stairs and alleys with an incredible array of small shops selling a wild range of goods. Delivery trucks either back in to drive out or drive in and back out, there are few if any through roads and they are all narrow. So tight that the garbage collection is performed by a person in a small pick-up truck.

The Fairmont Chateau Frontenac dominates the edge of the escarpment and towers over every other building in the old city. The Halloween decorations are all over the lawn in front of City Hall (Hotel-de-Ville). We reached the city wall and peered over the top for a view of the Parliament Building and found the place where the horse and carriages rest between trips around the city.

After lunch with David and Linda we made our way to the Citadelle where we were treated to a very informative tour of the area. David had told us it lasted about an hour, we were there for almost two. The views and buildings are most impressive as is the fact that it is still an operational military establishment being the HQ of the 22 Royal Quebec Regiment. Surprisingly a part of the Citadelle is also the alternate residence of the Governor General.

Met up with David and Linda again and dined at Le Cafe de Paris on Saint Louis which featured an open fire and guitar playing troubadour. The food was superb and the service excellent. The rain started to get serious and could turn into snow by the morning.

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Posted by greynomadm 03:50 Archived in Canada Comments (2)

To Old Quebec City

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Day 43 Thursday 28 October – To Old Quebec City

All packed and ready to leave, breakfast and pack the car. Sadie (the dog that rules the house) is to be a house-guest with Frank up the road. About 9:30 we set off to drive the 450 Km or so to Quebec City. The main highway takes one through the heart of Montreal, something to be avoided.

Linda navigates until about lunch time, then she takes over the driving around Montreal. She explains that most folks have their preferred route and she has hers. I've no idea how she managed it with dozens of changes from one highway to another and numerous detours due to road and bridge works. We have strong tail wind and despite a threatening sky we avoid the rain.

After taking us clear of Montreal she hands over the wheel to David and works out the route to the hotel. Another piece of brilliant navigation she guides David right to the front door of the hotel. The Hotel Manour Victoria is on Cote du Palais inside the city walls and was established in the 1830s, this building has been here since fire destroyed the original building in 1902. We check in and hand the car over to the porter.

The rooms are spacious, clean and comfortable. We take a walk through the old narrow streets and check out the many restaurants and pubs. There are also many boutique clothing and footwear shops, gift shops and a Christmas Shop. David chooses an Irish Pub for dinner and the meal was great, the live jazz band a bit overpowering and the general level of noise precluded any conversation. By about 8:30 we're back at the hotel and retire.

There's free WiFi broadband but only in the lounge area. I'll see how I go uploading this entry.
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Posted by greynomadm 03:19 Archived in Canada Comments (4)

Day at the War Museum

sunny 20 °C
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Day 42 Wednesday 27 October – Day at the War Museum

Daybreak is full of promise, the sun is out and there's only the hint of a breeze. After another delightful breakfast Jenny and Linda set off to explore the wonders of the fabric shops in the district, David and I travel into Ottawa to visit the War Memorial.

On approach the building does not look at all impressive being set low into the ground and will in from the main road. Once inside the doors you realise just how massively large the building is. David has a magic card which provides him and a guest with free entry and we head for the exhibition wing. A long and wide passage lined with enlarged photos leads to the start of the exhibits. We don't need the directions available and David leads us down to the hall where the large collection of the machines of war are on show.

Tanks, APCs, self propelled guns and trucks are all dwarfed by the size of the hall. It is a huge area with over 150 vehicles on display and still enough free space to hold as many more. Most of the pieces are in mint condition or have been meticulously restored, others are in as was used condition with broken pieces hanging off and scars of battle clearly visible. In addition to equipment used by the Canadians, there is gear from the Russians, the Germans and some American hardware as well. It takes us over two hours to view most of this collection.

Time for lunch in “the Mess”, a spacious area with a sunny view and served by a compact cafeteria. David has to move the car to avoid the parking inspector while I nose around some of the other areas. There are a number I didn't visit, including the Gift Shop, the Theatre and the Research Centre – there just is too much to see.

The detailed displays are loosely divided into four zones or galleries. They are arranged in a rough circle and follow the chronology starting with the early wars on Canadian soil through to the present time. I was aware that the Canadians had fought in WWI and WWII and that they were prominent in Peace Keeping missions, but there's a lot more they were involved in.

The early wars were a complete revelation and it appears the fought against the British, the French, the Americans and the First Nation People. I'm sure they even fought each other when there was no-one else to fight.

The exhibits were well lit and easy to read in quite spacious corridors. Significant items of a particular period were interspersed with enlarged photos, paintings, posters and reconstructed street scapes. All in all a vast and pleasant contrast with the War Memorial in Canberra.

At the end of the last gallery there was a room which asked the question “What will you do?”. Beneath that question you're invited to express your views on what the Museum has meant to you. There is a large array of pre-addressed blank cards and you're invited to use them to send a message. The preprinted addresses include the President of the USA, the Secretary General of the UN, the Prime Minister of Canada, the Directors of the Museum, the Canadian Legion and and a lot of others I can't remember. According to a staff member these cards are regularly and frequently replenished.

Somewhat emotionally drained and leg weary we head back to Manotick, a drink and diner and prepare for the trip to Quebec City in the morning.

PS. Jenny and Linda had a great day out and bought a range of materials.

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Posted by greynomadm 04:26 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

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