EASTERN US & CANADA
Savor the diversity and enchantment of the great cities of the Northeast and Canada on this enticing vacation, featuring a boat cruise and visits to the most important monuments. Begin your trip in exciting Boston, where your sightseeing tour focuses on historic sites such as the Old North Church and the Old State House. Then it's on to romantic Québec City, Canada's only walled city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your Québec City tour with a Local Guide features the Place d'Armes, the ancient Palace Royale, and the Plains of Abraham. Next, continue to Montréal, Canada's second-largest city, for a sightseeing tour, a visit to Notre Dame Basilica, and an afternoon at leisure
Drive west to beautiful Ottawa, Canada's capital, where you'll see the Canadian Mint, Parliament Hill, and experience a special guided tour of the Parliament of Canada - learn about the history and hear stories as you stand front and center in Canada's seat of Democracy. Next is the cosmopolitan city of Toronto, Canada's largest city, for a sightseeing tour and free time. See magnificent Niagara Falls on a Maid of the Mist cruise before returning to the U.S. to visit Lancaster, Pennsylvania, home of the religious Amish and Mennonite communities. Enjoy a traditional Amish feast and learn about the Amish faith, culture, and way of life. Next, travel to Washington DC, where your tour features Washington DC's famous monuments and government buildings. Finally, travel north to Philadelphia for a sightseeing tour including Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Your vacation ends in New York City - and thankfully, no city tour.
Day 1, Tuesday, May 10, Arrive in Boston
With an early flight, purchased with “Frequent Complainer” miles, getting the StuporShuttle means a 4:55AM pickup. I had planned to eat breakfast at the airport, but there was a very limited choice so I just skipped it.. Eat "breakfast" at the airport.
|United UA 1522||Houston - Boston||7:37A - 12:30P||3:53|
After a long, almost 4 hour, bouncy plane ride with a frequently howling/screaming kid, finally arrival at Boston Logan Airport with a voucher for my transfer to the hotel. However it takes a major argument with the cab driver that the voucher is good before some of the other cab drivers convince him that the voucher is indeed “good”. He wanted me to pay cash then get the cab company to reimburse me. At least the weather is clear and warm.
No long wait for a hotel room – I even get a complimentary upgrade (larger room) but internet access is still $9.95/hour so no online updates. Then walk about 3 blocks to get something to eat for lunch at Wendy’s. At 6pm, meet our tour director, Jenkins (our driver is John) for a welcome drunk (drinks only, no munchies). It is a large herd of cattle – 41 of us; 26 are Aussies, most of the rest are Kiwis, and only 3 from the US. No dinner is provided and by the time all the talking is done, it is too late to risk a walk back to Wendy’s in the dark. Not like Globus. This is what I would expect from Cheapmos(t). Lodging: Sheraton Boston Hotel (2 nights) (SF)
Day 2, Wednesday, May 11 Boston
(B) Full daylight at 5AM. No problem being awake for a buffet breakfast (very nice) at 6:30; off at 8:45. Sightseeing focuses on the city’s most prominent landmarks, such as the historic sites near Boston Common, and stops only at Trinity Church, Paul Revere Statue, and the Old North Church, from where Paul Revere got the signal to start his famous ride (the usual ho-hum, by now almost boring stops).
From the (very misleading) >/I>web site, I had thought we were going to have a noon break/stop at Quincy Market for lunch, but instead, we next board a (short, repeat) harbor CRUISE that takes us to see (not visit) the USS Constitution (in dry dock) and, off in the far distance, the Bunker Hill Monument. We are dropped off shortly after noon downtown at Quincy Market and eventually picked up 3+ hours later at 4 unless we are already bored and ready to go back to the hotel so I missed some great food at Quincy Market, but it wasn’t worth standing around for almost 4 hours just for that. The balance of the day is at leisure to go back to that Wendy’s for a much-less-than-I-had-hoped-for “lunch/dinner.” This day was such a total re-re-repeat that I didn’t even take my camera and didn't miss any pictures I would have wanted. I happened to notice that very few people had cameras although several had “smart phones” to take a few pictures.
Day 3, Thursday, May 12 Boston - Franconia Notch SP - Quebec City
OD) Full daylight at 5AM. Breakfast at 6:30; off at 8 for our longest (very) driving day. Journey north through New Hampshire, passing the state’s capitol at Concord and continuing to the beauty of Franconia Notch State Park in the scenic WHITE MOUNTAINS. About 15 minutes after we left, one of the ladies announced that she had left her purse/pocketbook so we lost about 40 minutes going back to retrieve it.
Capture views of one of nature’s true masterpieces as the grandeur of mountain scenery blends to a green carpet panorama in northern Vermont, with its’ innumerable forests and lakes. Unfortunately not that much is viewable from the interstate highway. Just short of the Canadian border we are forced to buy our lunch at a pre-selected feeding trough. We then waste about 25 minutes with a stop at a duty-free shop before going through Canadian Customs and crossing the border.
Enter the French-Canadian province of Québec. After quite a bit more driving we finally reach Quebec City – about 45 minutes later than planned. The next two nights are in Québec City on the banks of the St. Lawrence River and I do have a river view. The hotel even has complimentary Wi-Fi. Until the British victory of 1759, Old Québec was the center of New France. This evening, maybe enjoy regional French cuisine with an optional dinner in Old Town Québec. I’m skipping all the overpriced optional dinners. Lodging: Hilton Quebec (2 nights)
Day 4, Friday, May 13 Quebec City
(BD) Breakfast at 7; off at 8:30. Start the day with a walking tour by a Local Guide of Canada’s only walled city, including the Place d’Armes, ancient Place Royale, and the Plains of Abraham. In the “old town,” some of the architecture is very interesting.
There was an “interesting” accident/incident during the walk: a construction truck turned a corner too sharply and dropped/dumped a large stack of lumber (~4x8’) … and despite the crash, just kept going. Several bystanders had to go out into traffic and piece by piece carry each piece to the sidewalk and stack it there.
After the walk, we are “dumped” near old town about 10:30 and then picked up at 1:30. The rest of the afternoon is free. Tonight’s included dinner outing (depart 5:00) takes us first to Montmorency Falls (and for once the weather forecast was right) where we were pretty much rained out and the stop was cut very short. The falls weren’t all that fantastic anyway. Next continue over to ILE D’ORLEANS for a very slow service dinner (excellent soup, good salad, and the rest just ho-hum) at a restaurant in a restored 17th-century flour mill. Then back to the hotel in the rain. Despite the rain I wish we were staying in Quebec longer.
OPTIONAL: Historical Guided Cruise (LISTED BUT NOT OFFERED ON THIS DEPARTURE - the only option I was planning to take.) On this narrated cruise, discover the bucolic charm of Ile d'Orleans. Admire the Montmorency Falls, the highest waterfall in Eastern Canada. View the port installations on both shores of the St. Lawrence and cruise beneath the prestigious Chateau Frontenac, perched atop Cap Diamant, with the majestic Laurentian Mountains in the background. The amenities include onboard snack bar with cocktails. Cruise is 90 minutes. $35
Day 5, Saturday, May 14 Quebec City - Montreal
(B) Since we are in French Canada, should I say that it is very FRoggy outside this morning? It is really thick but does finally clear up about mid-morning. Bags and breakfast at 7; depart at 8. Travel southwest on more boring interstate to Montréal getting there about 11:15. I was in Montreal for a couple of days back in 1967 for “Expo ’67.”
We are dumped downtown for 1 ½ hours to get something to eat, then have a coach & walking tour with a Local Guide which includes NOTRE DAME BASILICA, the Old Seminary of St. Sulpice, and a drive to the top of Mount Royal to enjoy a gloomy panorama of the city. That ends at 3:30 and the rest of the day is at leisure to go to the underground shopping area of Place Ville-Marie looking for something to eat, walk about a mile to visit historic Old Montréal – or just stay in the so-so hotel since the weather forecast was again correct – it is raining fairly hard. The optional dinner scheduled for tonight was cancelled due to lack of interest. Lodging: Delta Montreal Hotel.
Day 6, Sunday, May 15 Montreal - Ottawa
(BD) Same bags / breakfast / departure schedule as yesterday. It is just that it is frigid this morning (39F with a real wind-chill factor added). I needed a wool cap, hooded parka, etc., but have to settle for a light sweater and ineffective “wind-breaker.”
Drive west on more interstate highway into Ottawa where, if anything, the temps are colder and winds are higher. On a guided tour we see the Canadian Mint, residences of the Governor General and Prime Minister, the History of Civilization Museum (great visit), several Embassies, Parliament Hill, the Rideau Canal, and the stately residences. The real highlight is a stop to admire the tulips – it’s the middle of their annual Tulip Festival. An estimated one MILLION tulips are in beds all across Ottawa. The views are fantastic. The Museum visit was great also.
Most of us are dropped off down town to get something to eat and to shop then walk back to the hotel – skipped since it is NOT a good idea in this weather. I had also planned to go across the street from the hotel to a very nice park with some great picture opportunities, but that got winded-out also. Dinner tonight, included even, is at an extremely noisy Greek madhouse; the soup was good but the rest was a wipeout – very poor. The sandwich I had for lunch today was a much better deal. Lodging: Lord Elgin Hotel (F)
Day 7, Monday, May 16 Ottawa - Toronto
(B) Breakfast (cold pancakes) at 6:30; depart at 8:45 for a a guided tour of the PARLIAMENT OF CANADA, where we are in the center stage of Canadian democracy. The extreme security process there makes the TSA look like a joke, and there were additional guards “everywhere.” Learn about the Parliament’s history, hear stories about some of the key players, and then enjoy time afterward to visit the Peace Tower and Memorial Chamber. It was our guide’s very first tour of the building to lead, and he needs to learn not to whisper his mumbles. We heard and learned almost nothing. The alternative, a visit to the Byward Market, including the chance to sample a delicious Beavertail pastry, a Canadian specialty shaped like a beaver tail, would have been a better deal!!
Later, after noon, “relax” as we make a long journey (probably our second longest driving day) with a short stop for lunch, through Ontario to Toronto arriving (barely surviving the Toronto traffic and the rain) about 6:30PM. Toronto traffic – it is almost impossible, and often illegal to make left turns so due to the very heavy rush hour traffic we get a “mini-tour” of the local traffic before John (our driver) can finally find a way to get to our hotel.
There are 3 “fast food” places within one block of the hotel so that will take care of meals tonight and tomorrow. Eventually, after a scare due to remembering the stolen luggage in Glasgow, my luggage finally arrives safely – after about 1 ½ hours. Basically today has been just a travel day. Problems with ‘net access, resolved by tomorrow morning. Lodging: Westin Harbor Castle (2 nights)
Day 8, Tuesday, May 17 Toronto
OD) It rained overnight, sometimes quite heavily. Still fairly cold and windy this morning – upper 40s. Breakfast at 6:30 – and the breakfasts continue to be good to excellent but in all the hotels they treat orange juice as a rare liquid, more valuable than liquid gold, and only serve “a few drops” at a time – assuming you can even get any “refill.”
Depart at 9. On today’s very short 2-hour sightseeing, and despite the traffic nightmares, view Toronto’s two city halls, the legislature buildings, the university, and some neighborhoods, including Chinatown. The new, modern City Hall is very impressive and an almost total contrast to the old city hall other than they are both buildings. The rest of the day is boring although there are a couple of interesting places within walking distance. Our optional dinner outing to be skipped which includes a visit to the top of the famous CN Tower for views of Toronto’s harbor and skyline but it is not worth the inflated price.
Lunch and dinner at Tim Horton’s (excellent Paninis) and it is a cool but nice afternoon to do some around-the-nearby-neighborhood walking.
OPTIONAL: Toronto Harbor Tour The Toronto Harbor cruise lets us enjoy the scenic (ho-hum) Toronto skyline, and gives a cruise-by not-so-close up look at the beautiful Toronto Islands and waterfront. While on board you will "enjoy entertaining and informative live narration". Cruise duration is one hour. $26 CAD (NO)
Day 9, Wednesday, May 18 Toronto - Niagara Falls
OD) Breakfast (very poor) at 6:30; bags at 7; depart at 8. Drive around the “Golden Horseshoe” of Lake Ontario and through vineyards and rich farmlands. Then, board a Niagara Falls sightseeing CRUISE for a damp boat ride (be sure to wear shoes that you don’t mind getting wet) to view the thundering falls from river level. It is not the “Maid of the Mist” which is a US boat but one of the Canadian Hornblower boats – with 200 (4 bus loads) of running, yelling kids. The “ponchos” they supply are a joke. All the trip activities are done before we get to the hotel about 3:30. This evening, don’t consider an optional dinner at a local restaurant followed by a chance to personally light up the falls. Lodging: Hilton Doubletree Fallsview (SF)
Day 10, Thursday, May 19 Niagara Falls - Lancaster
(BD) Bags out at 6:15, 10-minute micro-breakfast at 6:40, depart at 7 to try to beat the rush at the border crossing- which we did. Cross the border at Rainbow Bridge and enter New York State. Then, journey into Pennsylvania through the rolling Appalachian Mountains (a very nice scenic drive with mostly small towns and farms) and on to Lancaster, home of the Amish and Mennonite communities whose religious faiths stress humility, family, community, simple living, and separation from the world.
The hotel tonight is a converted cork factory and although just a plain large red brick building on the outside, it rates very high – a two-room suite even. It is now on the Register of Historic Hotels. For the last 4 days my sinus allergies have been giving me **** with coughing etc., with almost no sleep, so I felt like, our of courtesy to our host and hostess I should skip the traditional AMISH FEAST and get an intimate view of growing up Amish. (Censored!) Visit an AMISH FAMILY and their farm, where you will learn more about this faith, culture, and traditional way of life that excludes the use of modern conveniences such as electricity and telephones. We visit the barn, see their miniature horses, learn about their homemade quilts and crafts, and sample delicious Dutch treats. I had been looking forward to this as one of the trip highlights. Lodging: Cork Factory Hotel
Day 11, Friday, May 20 Lancaster - Washington DC
OD) Breakfast at 6:30, bags at 7:30, depart at 8:30. The Amish visit scheduled for today was combined with yesterday’s visit so we depart directly for Washington DC, arriving about 11. We have most of the rest of the day (5 hours) at leisure to do as we wish to visit a couple of the many museums of the Smithsonian Institution.
Special excitement for the day: about mid-afternoon some idiot showed up just outside the fence of the White House, and fired off several shots at the place. Fortunately nobody was hit or killed, but the White House is fully cordoned off for a while. The shooter is probably a new resident of a federal jail cell. And this is after that Islamic terrorist group brought down another airliner in the Middle East yesterday. It is getting dangerous to be even a quiet tourist, even here in the US.
This afternoon, I started with a long walk around the Mall to photograph many of the buildings, then started visits with the Natural History Museum, then a short time in the American History Museum before going to the Air and Space Museum. Tomorrow I’ll do more of the A&S Museum, watch 2-3 IMAX movies there, and then visit the new American Indian Museum which should be very good. Pick up today at 4 to go on to the hotel. Again skip the optional dinner tonight at one of Washington’s restaurants, which is followed by an illumination tour of some of the city’s monuments. As expected at a Hilton Hotel, WiFi is very expensive. No Courtesy service. No eamils, no web updates. Lodging: Capital Hilton (2 nights) (SF)
Day 12, Saturday, May 21 Washington DC - Bad Day in NOBama-Ville
(BD) It rained during the night and is still raining this morning. It is also much colder than yesterday and quite windy. Then to add to that, breakfast is the poorest of the trip. Board the bus in the rain at 8:30 – raincoats and an extra sweater(s) are needed. Our slightseeing, what little we can see in the rain, was supposed to feature many of Washington DC’s famous landmarks, including the VIETNAM, KOREAN, and WORLD WAR II Memorials. Enjoy a ride through history on a tram tour – turned into long walk since the tram would have taken much too long - while visiting ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, where we see the KENNEDY GRAVESITES.
After numerous rain and traffic delays, stop for photos at the White House and the Capitol – but they are pretty much hidden by construction and/or preparations for the Memorial Day festivities. No photos taken during the morning rain.
We are supposed to have an afternoon at leisure to visit a couple of the Smithsonian Museums, but since we are running about 2 hours behind, and the weather is still bad (even worse?), only 2 of the 41 of us stayed in town; the rest came on back to the hotel since we would have had only about 2 ¼ hours instead of 4 or more. So much for the Air & Space Museum including 2 of their IMAX movies, and visiting the American Indian Museum which is supposed to be great. It (AIM) will be priority 1 on my next visit here.
This evening Globus even springs for a farewell dinner at some place only slightly better than McDonald’s – it is the same restaurant in our hotel which gave us such a poor breakfast this morning. And it is no better. McDonald's preferred.
Day 13, Sunday, May 22 Washington DC - Philadelphia - New York City - Depart
(B) Up early for breakfast, but instead of having a nice breakfast to start a long travelling day, it is another one of the miserable selections that this hotel seems to specialize in. I foresee a long, hungry flight home. At 7:30 on a gloomy, windy, somewhat cold morning, start our travels north to Philadelphia for a VERY brief slightseeing focusing on the important buildings of this historic city, the “Birthplace of the Nation.” Visit a couple of the major attractions, including the LIBERTY BELL and INDEPENDENCE HALL. It is just a 1 ½ hour stop, and is also our lunch stop, so there really isn’t much time here.
Continue north into New Jersey and on to Newark Airport for our homebound flights. Although we end the trip in the New York area, at least we don’t waste time in that maddening crowd – we go straight to the airport. I am NOT taking the New York City 2-day extension. We are at the airport by 1:45 or 2. The flight takes off on time and makes a very fast flight arriving ¾ hour early. However that gets offset by long luggage delivery time and a very long shuttle ride.
|United UA 385||Newark - Houston||4:35P - 6:44P||3:09|
With the late arrival, don’t get home until about 9PM. The tour was fairly good since I had a chance to see places I hadn’t seen in 50 years, but it did have some LOW points – as all tours do. The weather messed up lots of things. Personally I think we had too much “free time” and could have enjoyed more guided time. The tour director (Darryl) and driver (John) were great.
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