ROAD TRIP DAY 12: FALLIN’ FOR NIAGARA FALLS

During our 3-1/2 hour drive this morning, we left Ohio, passed through the northwest corner of Pennsylvania, and buzzed around Buffalo, New York, before landing in Niagara Falls, Canada.

The Rex Motel where we will spend three nights was our final destination, and we were pleased with our choice. I wondered how a little motel could land a #1 ranking on Trip Advisor, but when we arrived, we learned why so many people raved about this best-value accomodation in Niagara Falls. It’s owned and managed by the warmest, sweetest couple who want to bend over backwards to make their guests feel welcome. We received a lot of helpful tips about the area after we checked in, and when we opened the door to our room, we smiled with delight. Each room at the motel has a different ethnic theme, and we arrived in Venice, Italy. Very cute, spotlessly clean, and well-priced. Perfect.

170

169

The falls are just a short drive away, so we headed downtown to catch our first glimpse. To sum it up in one word: WOW! 34 million gallons of water flow over these falls each MINUTE, and it’s an amazing spectacle to see.

162

163

164

167

More photos and travel tales to come on this amazing sight!

AU REVOIR, QUEBEC!

35
On both sides of the walled Old City, Quebec is a very pleasant, attractive, and clean city; and, we always felt safe walking through the streets wherever we went. It is quite hilly, though, and I am now paying for hiking up and down those steep inclines! If you have arthritis in your hips and you visit Quebec City, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

106

The incline is so steep leading down to the Old Port, we walked down; however, after a full day of walking, we chose to take the inclinator back up. It was well worth the visit, though, as you can see below.

71

72

76

78

81

85

87

88

98

102

Back up top, the Fairmont Hotel and the Old City looked beautiful in the sunlight.

57

61

64

66

 

44

46

We thoroughly enjoyed our 2-1/2 days in Quebec City and were sorry to have to leave Canada. U.S. Masters Summer Nationals was next on my swimming competition plate, though, and it was time to continue on to College Park, Maryland.

How ironic that of all the people we spoke with in French Canada, the only one who couldn’t speak English was the taxi driver who took us to the airport! Seeing our luggage upon arrival, though, he pulled only two words out of his extremely limited English vocabulary: “Airport or train station?” And, off we went.

Somehow, in his French and my English, we were able to communicate perfectly fine. I had forgotten to photograph my Canadian currency (something I do in every country I visit), so I pulled out a $20 and photographed it on my leg. I conveyed to our driver that their $20 note was prettier than our $20 bill. He went on to comment on the value of their currency compared to ours and how it has fluctuated over the years. I didn’t understand a word he said, but we were sure we understood exactly what he said. Funny how sign language and facial expressions can be a wonderful substitute for understandable words.

140

By the time we arrived at the airport, our discussion of economics had developed quite animated; however, it was time to say “au revoir.”

We both look forward to the day we return to Quebec City and are welcomed by our next French-speaking taxi driver with a hearty, “Bonjour!”

QUEBEC: OUI, OUI!

There was one place I felt completely at home among an entire group of French speaking locals: the pool. Lap swimming etiquette is the same throughout the world, and it took no time at all to size up the situation when I arrived for a morning training session. Lanes were designated by speed, and although I can’t read French, I knew what the red, yellow, and green signs meant: no-go, slow-go, and go-go! I hopped into the lane with the green sign (for fast swimmers) and fit right in with three swimmers who knew what they were doing (circle swimming counter-clockwise). We all went about our business and were right in sync, never getting in each others’ way.

139

Two of us ended our session at the same time, and we got into a conversation. He spoke to me in French, and I replied, “Parlaz-vous anglais?” In perfect English, he repeated his question, “Are you new here? I’ve never seen you before.”

After explaining that I was American and had competed at the Masters World Championships, he welcomed me to Quebec and said, “I may be partial, but I think Quebec is the most beautiful city in North America. You are really going to enjoy it!” I don’t think I will ever forget that conversation, because it was the end of that day I came to the same conclusion.

San Diego, the city I called home for 24 years is wonderful in so many ways, and San Francisco is magical. Portland and Seattle are two beautiful cities, and I absolutely loved Chicago. Savannah is incredibly charming and picturesque, and although New York is HUGE, it also has a place on my favorite cities list.

In Canada, Vancouver topped the list for me and Bruce—until we stepped under the arch of the walled Old City of Quebec. It was love at first sight.

During our two full days in Quebec, Bruce and I enjoyed our quickly-established routine of swimming in the morning and sightseeing in the afternoon. While he lounged in the apartment, I made the five-minute walk to the community pool for the morning lap swimming session. (U.S. Master Swimming Summer Nationals was coming up in just a few days, so it was important to keep a feel for the water after Worlds concluded.)

This facility was excellent. Not only was it free (thanks to the taxpayers), it was clean as a whistle and well-maintained. The locker rooms were large and well-equipped, and the 25-meter pool was kept at a perfect temperature.

After my swim, I was curious to see who was pictured on the wall next to the posted information. As it turned out, it was the local Masters team, and I recognized several of the swimmers from World Championships!

Following my morning swim sessions, we ventured into the Old City and Old Port to explore.

The iconic centerpiece of the Old City is the Fairmont Hotel. Below are some photos I shot of the hotel and a parade we enjoyed the previous afternoon. It was a bit gloomy; however, we were fortunate to have perfect weather the remainder of our trip.

59

56

60

58

55

54.JPG

52

 

Our first meal in Quebec was at Casse-Crepe Breton, a highly rated and reasonably priced recommended on my go-to travel site, http://www.TripAdvisor.com . We enjoyed our crepes there so much, we returned for more on our last day.

17

Ditto for our pitas at La Galette Libonnaise, a tiny takeaway tucked in between posh restaurants on swank Grand-Allee est. We each tried a different pita during our two visits, so we tasted four in all. It was difficult to choose a favorite, because they were all so delicious!

120

In my next post, I will share more about our Quebec experience. Until then, au revoir!

QUEBEC CITY: EXQUISITELY BEAUTIFUL!

Riding the train from Montreal to Quebec City was a very relaxing and enjoyable way to begin our remaining three days in Canada. Rather than book a hotel room in Quebec, we again opted to rent an apartment, this time at http://www.airbnb.com .

Melanie and Angus were there to greet us upon arrival, an easy task for them since their home was located just above our rental. Immediately, we knew we had made the right choice, because they were as warm and gracious as could be, and their apartment was as cozy and comfortable as we could hope for. What a perfect way to begin our visit in Quebec, the city that topped my bucket list for several years!

Quickly, we checked out the amenities, hung up our clothes, and off we went to explore the city. A short walk up the stairs and there we were at Rue Saint-Jean, the street that would take us to the Old City, just a ten-minute walk away.

Along the way were many inviting restaurants, shops, markets, and even a chocolatier with a chocolate museum!

My heart skipped a beat and my eyes lit up, though, when we arrived at the walls surrounding the Old City. I couldn’t wait to explore what awaited us on the other side.

Quebec City, the capital of Quebec perched on the hills above the Saint Lawrence River, is one of the oldest settlements in North America. French explorer Jacques Cartier built a fort at the site in 1535. That was a long time ago!

To us Americans, any structure that is more than 100 years old is old. In Quebec, homes at the Old Port dated back to the early 1600’s and appeared no worse for the wear. They just don’t build ‘em like they used to! (Too bad the Atlanta Braves don’t subscribe to that point of view, because they are abandoning Turner Field for a new stadium. Turner field was built for the Olympics in 1996 and still looks perfectly fine!)

Being in Quebec felt like being back in France. In addition to the beautiful European architecture of the Old City, about 95% of the city’s inhabitants are native French speakers.

Many Americans would find that intimidating or uncomfortable, but I am like a magnet when it comes to foreign cultures. Drop me in the middle of anywhere foreign and I love the challenge of communicating with the locals and making myself at home.

I don’t speak French, but it didn’t take much effort to learn a few simple phrases that proved to be all that was needed to enjoy our stay in Quebec. Check this out on Trip Advisor; it’s all you will need if you visit Quebec: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g153339-s604/Canada:Important.Phrases.html

“Bonjour! Parlez-vous anglais?” Asked with a smile, the locals unfailingly responded in perfect English. We never once experienced the unfriendliness that Americans often speak about when it comes to the French or French Canadians. Avoid playing the “ugly American” role, and Quebec City is thoroughly enjoyable.

The following are a few of the photos I shot in Quebec City. Visit http://www.ExquisiteCards.fototime.com to see more, and check back for my next post for more about Quebec City.

01

03

05

09

12

24

37

THE STREETS OF MONTREAL

Given the worn-out condition of my legs after a full day of sightseeing during my free day at Masters Swimming World Championships (and a rotten race time in my 400 IM the following day because of it), we decided to save most of the remainder of our sightseeing for after the completion of Worlds. We had already signed up for a walking tour after my morning race, though, so what the heck. You only live once, right?

Off we went to meet our guide for an afternoon walk through Old Montreal, the Old Port, and the underground city. It was a beautiful day for a walking tour, and we thoroughly enjoyed hearing about the sights along the way.

44

46

50

 

We were most fascinated by the underground tunnels that connect shopping malls, apartment buildings, condos, offices, museums, universities, seven Metro stations, two commuter train stations, a bus terminal, and the hockey arena. Whew! In all, these air conditioned and lit tunnels are spread over more than 12 km (4.6 square miles)! Many are so wide they have shops on both sides of the passage.

23

Colorful paint added life to this otherwise bleak hallway connecting the underground city to one of the Metro train stations.

Winters are so brutal in Montreal that 500,000 people use the underground city every day to escape the cold and snow. During our stay in Montreal, the weather was too gorgeous to spend much of our time down there.

Our last full day in Montreal was spent exploring the Mont Royal neighborhood and surrounding area. My camera got a lot of use that day, and our legs put on some miles!  To see more photos of Montreal, visit:  www.ExquisiteCards.fototime.com .

67

83

103

98

106

 

70

122

75

74

MONTREAL, CANADA (BETTER LATE THAN NEVER!)

Where has the time gone? So much has happened since visiting Montreal and competing in the FINA Masters Swimming World Championships in early August! After World’s, we visited Quebec City for a few days of sightseeing and then flew back to the States to compete in the U.S. Masters Swimming National Championships. Next, it was time to gear back up to compete in the Southside Seals Pentathlon on September 13 where I competed in my first Ironman. Nothing like racing a 400 Individual Medley, 200 Freestyle, 200 Breaststroke, 200 Backstroke, and 200 Butterfly (saving the hardest for last) in just over two hours! Then, on September 19, I raced a full slate in the Georgia Senior Golden Olympics so I could qualify for Nationals that will take place in the Twin Cities in July 2015. My race times were slow; however, competition was light, so I ended up with two gold and three silver medals.

ElaineKrugman-2Gold,3Silver

Our travels are still on my mind as wonderful memories, though, so I thought I would share some of them with you.

Back in Montreal, Day 2 of competition at World’s didn’t include any of my race events, so it was a day off for me. Most swimmers would choose to relax and stay off their feet given that opportunity; however, we wanted to see Montreal and it was important to me to make this an enjoyable trip for Bruce as well.

Our day off from the pool started with a Metro ride to the Marche Jean-Talon, a wonderful market that was so much more than just produce stalls. It was an experience.

01

08

10

12

15

20

 

Most of the remainder of the day was spent exploring the streets of Old Montreal where it felt like being back in France. From the architecture dating back to the 1600’s to the horse-drawn carriages, it was hard to believe we were still in North America. The gas lamps, flower baskets, sidewalk cafes and French-speaking locals gave Old Montreal even more of a French feel to transport me back in my mind to France.

29

31

Riding the Metro trains around Montreal was an efficient way to see the city, and swimmers were given a free 9-day pass to see the sights. Family members were sold passes at an excellent discount, so Bruce and I took advantage of it throughout our nine-day visit. The condo we rented through http://www.homeaway.com was located downtown just a couple of blocks from a Metro station, so it was very convenient. Since the Parc Jean-Drapeau Aquatic Complex was located at one of the Metro stops, we used Metro for getting to and from the pool each day of competition.

Everywhere we went around the city, we saw other swimmers and their families wearing their World Championships credentials around their necks. It was to be
expected given the 9,000 athletes in town for the five Masters aquatic events, including swimming, open water swimming, synchronized swimming, diving, and water polo.

What I didn’t expect, though, was to run into my own teammate on a crowded train during our day away from the pool sightseeing! On our way back to the condo, we were just about to board a train when I noticed that some of the cars were more packed than others. We made a quick decision to run up ahead to board a less-crowded train, and there was Ed Saltzman, Georgia Masters team relay coordinator, standing at the car door with a grin on his face. Ed had all of the team’s t-shirts with him, so he quickly dug through his backpack trying to locate mine. Wait! “What station are you getting off at, Ed?” When we realized we were hopping off at the same one, we breathed a sigh of relief and took care of business in the station instead. What a fun way to end our first day of sightseeing in Montreal!

20-EdSaltzman

130

The view from our condo in downtown Montreal.