Leaving Québec City, we got on Highway 40, which runs along the St Lawrence all 158 miles to Montréal. Not that you see much of the river on the way. There was only one bridge across the river (about at the mid-point between the two cities), at Trois-Rivieres. So at any given point, one bank of the river, though usually less than a mile from the other as the crow flies, is many miles away by car.

As we got closer to Montréal, the traffic started to slow and eventually was at a crawl. So we got off at the nearest exit and embarked on a new route into the city. It turned out to be an interesting drive through some rural areas and small suburbs north and west of Montréal. The houses, shops, roads are fascinating — there is a subtle, hard-to-describe difference from what you see at home. Quirky, cool, so interesting. We crossed a rickety bridge over the top fork of the Riviere des Prairies, which led to an island, Laval, above Montréal.

Once we got into the city, we went to Parc du Mont-Royale, a beautiful city park located on the highest of Mt. Royal's (764 ft) three peaks in the center of Montreal. There is one nice vista accessible by car that overlooks the eastern part of the city. Our next stop was Rue Notre-Dame. We walked up and down the street, stopping in the majestic, gothic Notre Dame Basilica.

Then back in the other direction we went in shops all along the way until we came to Place Jacques-Cartier, a pretty public square surrounded by nice galleries, cafés, and historic 19th century buildings.

We went into a gallery (and the warning sirens went off: I hadn't made a major purchase on this trip yet). This one showcased the neat sculptures done by the Inuit people who live on the shores of Hudson Bay in northern Canada. Most of the subjects are animals carved out of the most beautiful rock: steatite, serpentine, dolomite, quartz, and others. The colors and striations are stunning. Well, I'd resisted until now — I had seen them in Québec City as well. But this was my last chance. And gee, the exchange rate was good between the dollar and the looney. More than enough justification to tip my fragile, already favorably weighted "buy?" scale. After agonizing over all the choices, I picked a beautiful small bear; the artist had really captured the animal's essence and the rock had fantastic green colors and patterns. Sold.

Now I was tired from the cumulative effects of the purchase, the traveling and the sights. We headed out of town to our motel in the southern suburb of Ville Sainte-Catherine. We had been lucky to find a room at all — the whole city was booked, and the room I found was due to a cancellation. I regretted we couldn't stay in Montréal for another day because we missed a lot.

We drove south around the bend of the St. Lawrence to Ville Sainte-Catherine, a strange, interesting area. It was hard to say if it was a town, or what — it didn't have a clear beginning or end. But look, there's our motel, the only one around.

Route 66 had nothing on this place. Here was the roadside motel exemplified. A cute, friendly little throwback to the 1940s in the flesh. And within a few miles of one of the most sophisticated, cosmopolitan cities in the world — where, exactly, are we? As if the Motel Frandy weren't enough, right in front of its grand grass entrance, was something that landed from another planet. Or maybe it was the prototype for a burger joint circa 1950. How neat and fun was this? I walked all over the area, taking it all in. It was so refreshing. The next morning I went for a run in the neighborhood behind the motel. It was new construction, light, pastel homes with clean designs on small lots. A Canadian Pleasantville.

We had a beautiful drive home. Crossing the border at Rouses Point, New York, we had nice views of Lake Champlain. A bridge took us across the lake into northern Vermont, through a great area of peninsulas and islands. Pretty farmlands with scenic views of the lake in different directions all along Grand Isle. Then onto "mainland" Vermont, it was all picture-perfect New England along Route 7 through Burlington, Shelburne and further south. We turned back to the west at Vergennes because we wanted to cross back over Lake Champlain (really more like a river in this area) at Chimney Point.

The reason for going back into New York was to see Lake George — I hadn't been there before, but Mom knew the area well. The lake is in a spectacular setting surrounded by green, rounded mountains.

The town of Lake George at the southern end of the lake was pretty crazy. Tourists everywhere — many families, lots of kids and teenagers. A little too crowded for me. The shops were nothing special, so we weren't there long, before heading out again.

We got back home a few hours later. It was a great appetizer trip, but not nearly long enough. I hope to get back to Canada soon — especially to the Gaspé peninsula in la belle Québec and to the other eastern provinces which are within a reasonable (albeit long!) driving distance.

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