Stef has had enough of Montréal so we are heading out east to see some of the surrounding countryside and lakes while we sort out the motor-home. The day did not start well though. The car Avis had available first thing had gone by the time we were ready to book so we spent a while hunting around for car rental, finally finding one at the airport. By this time Stef was well and truly in GOM (Grumpy Old Man) mode! Again!!!
We picked up the car (he grumped again because there was only one person at the office and they were serving someone else so he had to wait) and headed out onto the streets of Montreal. We headed east on Route 10, crossing the river on to the mainland (Montreal is an island). At the turning for Chambry we headed to the old fort, stopping to buy a more detailed road map. In the village we were stuck at lights while a boat went through the lock. Three chaps with artificial noses were entertaining the passers by with Dixie style jazz.
It is a really pretty picture postcard village. The first of many we saw today. Lots of people were wandering around and cycling, the first indication, although we had not realised it yet, that trouble lay ahead. The car parks were full and knowing there were more sights to see we pushed on towards Farnham, the start of the Route des Vins trail. Wine making seems to be a relatively recent thing here but it is definitely on the tourist map. The trail is well signposted and takes you through some really beautiful countryside. In the distance are the Appalachian mountains with green wooded slopes. Around us there is prime agricultural land and corn seems to be a main crop.
The farms and houses all seem to be made of wood and have a familiar feel (courtesy of Hollywood!). In their back gardens most have large round spa pools and families were enjoying the sun and soaking in the pool. I bet a fair few barbecues were lit tonight.
We followed the trail down and through stopping for a while at Bedford. At the local shops a woman at a stall outside saw Stef's camera and tripod and asked if he was a journalist. I think she was a bit disappointed when I said we were just here on holiday! Just past Pigeon Hill we stopped at a vinyard and tasted their wares. They had a couple of whites, a rose, a red and some sweet desert wines. We bought a desert wine and a red and carried on to Dunham where we hope to stay.
|Wine, this way|
This is where it all went pear shaped. Being close to Montreal and holiday season (also as we found out later industrial fortnight) this area is very popular with Montrealers. The places where we we wanted to stay were full. It was about 6:30pm so we drove on to Knowlton, a larger place with more hotels, all full. All the places we tried were full and they said everything near them was full. As time marched on we got increasingly despondent, thirsty and hungry. Expecting to get the same "we are sorry we are full" everywhere in this part of town we gave up and headed back to Montreal. Knowing the city was also very busy (and therefore very expensive) we opted to just go for a safe option and headed for one of the airport hotels. The Quality had availability so we booked. We got to the airport in less than an hour but them spent forty five minutes driving around it trying to get to the hotel. We could see it and drove past it once but you needed to be on the service road to get to it. We were not and there was no obvious was of turning back. Despite two phone calls to the hotel for instructions we still could not make it and gave up.
The Hilton at the airport was "get to-able" and that is where we headed. Ironic because that is where we had picked the car up from this morning! They had a room and we checked in. I called the Quality to cancel our booking there and had a very shirty guy on the phone, most put out that we had gone to the Hilton. I got cross when he said he would still charge the room to our card but after angrily explaining that we had had a long day and after forty five minutes around the airport still could not get to him he said he would not charge us. Time will tell but I expect we will get hit.
At the Hilton the staff were very friendly. They helped us with our bags to the room (a quarter of a mile away from Reception). We walked the quarter of a mile back and hit the bar. Amazingly after the first sip of wine (me) and beer (Stef) the frustrations of the last few hours seemed to melt away. Food multiplied the calming effect. The shock was the bill - $10 for a small glass of wine (worse because I had had two). Our waiter was very friendly (non French speaking like the few other friendly people we have met so far) and we got chatting about our trip and our plans. He has driven coast to coast and said we are set for a good trip. He was set for a busy end to his shift - a Gatwick bound flight with three hundred and ten passengers has just been cancelled!