Browsing "Canada"
Jul 9, 2012 -

Fort Lennox, Saint-Paul-Île-Aux-Noix

My dad took my sister and me many times to Fort Lennox. Last time I was there was surely going on 20 years.

The brochure sums up this place much more eloquently than I ever could (great job, Parks Canada!):

Located on Île aux Noix, an island on the Richelieu River, Fort Lennox is one of the jewels of the Parks Canada network…. There is no bridge linking this fabulously destined island to the mainland, it can only be reached by boat. The crossing takes five minutes, which is just enough time to travel back a few centuries and tread the very earth that was fought over by the French, American and British.

Once you step across the drawbridge at Fort Lennox, you will discover one of the most authentic British fortifications in North America. The stone buildings and defensive structures are of exceptional beauty. They were built between 1819 and 1829 to protect the colony against an eventual American invasion by way of the Richelieu River.

Your guide will help you discover the amazing history of Île aux Noix as you walk in the footsteps of the soldiers and officers of Fort Lennox. Once inside the barracks, the guard room, the jail, and the officers’ quarters you will get a fascinating glimpse into the daily military life of days gone by.

To access the Fort, you park in the parking lot in St-Paul-Île-aux-Noix, pay at the information centre, and then take brief ferry ride to the island. Admission is $7.80 or about half that if you get across on in your own boat (the region is a haven for boaters).

There is a small canteen on site, but I opted to bring my own food. So by the time I did a detour to Napierville to get some, it was 11:00 when I bought my admission ticket. The ferry runs on the half hour, so I had just enough time to take a couple of pictures and then it was time to cross the river.

The pictures below will have more information, so I’ll just give some general insight into the fort and my day there. While the island is a really nice place to spend the day as a family, there really isn’t much to see in the fort in terms of museum exhibits. You can easily go to Fort Lennox for an hour, which is about how long I expected to be there. But if you go on the weekends, there are guided tours and reenactments, which really add to the experience. I wound up staying for almost five hours!

I started by exploring a little on my own then stopping for lunch in the very little shade the island offers. I did the last exhibit and was going to call it a day when I found the media room where I got sucked into some movies about a shameful part of Canadian history that I knew nothing about: the internment of Jewish refugees at Fort Lennox in the 1940s as prisoners of war. They were Germans who had fled to Britain and then been deported to Canada where there was no understanding of the distinction between Nazi sympathizers and Germans who opposed the regime.

It took a few years for the status of the Jews to change from prisoners to refugees and even longer for the Canadian government to allow the men to remain on Canadian soil. You see, Canada didn’t want any Jewish refugees during World War II. This is the same country that interned its Japanese citizens during the same conflict, but I digress.

The video presentation was very good and it was a shock to realise that the men talking were featured in the photographs of the island at the time. These men do not begrudge the initial rough treatment by Canadian authorities because they were provided with excellent schooling and eventually allowed to stay. Sure, Canada didn’t want Jews, but it came around. That sure beat being unwanted in their own country and being sent to a concentration camp. All is relative…

Anyway, by the time I finished the videos, the first guided tour was underway so I joined in at the powder magazine, a vaulted and sealed building set apart from the others where the black powder was stored. We continued past the officers’ quarters, the guard house, and the jail, where the tour ended.

It was then time to join a session about the uniforms worn at the fort in the 1830s. They were red and white with apple green accents to mark that they were the 24th regiment. The interpreter said the coats were red so that the soldiers would be visible and impressive, adding that the rifles of the day didn’t allow one to aim so, no, the red didn’t make the soldiers any more of a target.

After the uniform demonstration, we moved on to the impressive firearm demonstration. When that was done, a tour with a costumed interpreter started, so I thought to join in so as to see the section I’d missed on the first tour. As it turned out, there were so many visitors we were broken off into smaller groups who did the tour in a different order. I wound up starting again at the powder magazine and had to go through everything again to get to the general barracks.

This was no hardship since the costumed tour was entertaining and had extra information. Plus, I took the costumed tour in English since the group was much, much smaller than the French ones, so I got to hear the bulk of the information in both languages.

When the tour ended, I was beyond ready to get out of the sun, so I got an ice cream from the canteen and headed back to the dock to await the next ferry, pleased that the locale had lived up to nostalgic memories.

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Canada, Quebec, Travel    1 Comment
Jul 8, 2012 -

On the Shores of Lake Champlain

Yesterday (Saturday), I met up with my sister and her family at Camping Plage [Beach] Kirkland, in Venise-en-Québec along the shores of Lake Champlain, for a day of frolicking in sand and surf. I decided to spend the night so that I could visit a nearby attraction today.

The last time I played on a Lake Champlain beach was in the early 1990’s when my dad rented a cottage in the area for our summer holidays. My sister doesn’t remember this, but I do because it’s the only time I remember my father taking us on a proper summer vacation.

With taxes, a dry spot in the campground was $30, an average amount for this part of the province. It would have given me access to the beach till 1PM today, but I left at 9 to give my planned activity, subject of my next post, all the time it would need.

I was on my own by about 5:30 Saturday evening, so I decided to get the truck bed set up for sleeping and then head out in search of dinner. It was really hot in the truck, but the outside temps were going down steadily. I cracked open the windows, set up the curtains, and then took off on foot to explore the dining options.

To my surprise, there aren’t many restaurants in Venise-en-Québec despite it being a very hot tourist location. To the left of the campground, I found a snack bar offering poutine, hot dogs, smoked meat, and the like. To the right, there are a few ice cream parlors and the only real dining option, Papa Suzie Pizzeria. Besides pizza, it offers fast food items like hot dogs and poutine, but also some sandwiches and full dinner options like pasta, fish and chips, and chicken. Nothing gourmet, but definitely a step up from a snack bar.

I ordered the chicken breast dinner. It was modeled after the meals served by Quebec’s quintessential St-Hubert restaurants, an absurdly popular rotisserie offering insipid yet strangely addictive food. So that meant I got a quarter all-white meat chicken, French fries, colesaw, half of a toasted hamburger bun, and gravy.

The chicken was moist and flavourful (St-Hubert’s is dry and bland), the fries were brown and sweet (St-Hubert’s are frozen, what?!), the coleslaw was okay (St-Hubert offers an oil and vinegar slaw that is more to my liking than the kind with mayo), the hamburger bun was of better quality, and the gravy was thicker. I wasn’t able to finish everything and the bill came to less than $15 with tip!

It was going on 7:00 when I got back to the truck and the interior was nice and cool. I laid down with the iPad and wiled away the evening playing games and reading.

The night was very comfortable, but without shade, the truck became an oven very early this morning. Note to self: park in the shade when the temperatures promise to be torrid!

While the campground was adequate for my needs in the truck, I would not have wanted to drive through its narrow streets with Miranda. This is the second campground I’ve visited this summer where people are packed in really tightly. I don’t know if that’s the norm out here or if it just happens at the primarily seasonal campgrounds, but I would not find a stay there too relaxing.

My sister and her boyfriend are thinking of moving their travel trailer to this campground next summer. Like many other Quebecers, they use their trailer as a cottage set on a seasonal lot in a campground, probably because, as in Alberta, registration on a towable RV is a one-time fee. So this option is much cheaper than owning a cottage and you can move the trailer when you get bored with the scenery (or get annoyed with the neighbours!).

I enjoyed my time on the shores of Lake Champlain this weekend. Let me get some sleep and I will move on to my adventures on the Richelieu River in my next post.

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Boondocking/Dry camping, Campgrounds, Canada, Quebec, Travel    1 Comment
Jul 5, 2012 -

Au Pied de la Chute Restaurant, Richelieu

Today, my uncle treated my grand-mother and us to lunch at the charming Au pied de la chute restaurant in Richelieu. It is so named ‘at the foot of the falls’ because it is on the banks of the Richelieu River right across from the dam. It’s a fine dining establishment that favours local products (produits du terroir).

We ate out on the terrace, so I did not see the interior, which must have been charming since the restaurant is set in a traditional Quebec home made of field stone.

Au pied de la chute

The very affordable lunch menu includes soup or salad with your meal, bread, and a hot beverage. The potage (smooth vegetable soup without cream) was apparently very good, but I opted for a lovely salad with a dressing that apparently smelled Japanese.

For the main course, my mother opted for the deer and Brie burger with frites while the rest of us all went for the lightly breaded perch with rice and roasted vegetables. Very, very delicious! There wasn’t that much on the lunch menu that had inspired me (the rest was red meat or mussels with curry or a pasta dish with artichokes and sun dried tomatoes that sounded good), but I don’t need much choice when something stands out so obviously! I especially liked the leek confit served over the fish.

We all had the German chocolate cake for dessert, a sliver of goodness served with some fruit pieces ($2!). The coffee was delicious.

Needless to say, I was very impressed with Au pied de la chute!

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Canada, Quebec, Travel    3 Comments