Thursday & Friday September 18 & 19

Awe-inspiring Rockies

Awe-inspiring Rockies

It seems a lot has happened in the last 48 hours, but most of it was not exciting enough to write home about. Yesterday was a mixed-up, getting-from-A-to-B sort of day, with our big Kiwi group splitting into two and (briefly) going separate ways. Following breakfast in the Banff Caribou Lodge, half of us transferred by coach to the cowboy-town of Calgary for our longish flight across Canada to Montreal. The drive from Banff through the Rockies gave us another feast of magnificent 10,000-foot peaks … followed all too quickly by a total change of landscape as we came downhill and crossed into the Alberta – a province of endless flat pastures famous for its beef-steak.

Because we’d been unable to book seats for everyone on the same Air Canada flight, the other half of our group left an hour later and took a very pleasant tiki-tour past beautiful Lake Louise … arriving in Montreal’s Pierre Trudeau Airport around midnight.

Montreal

Montreal

Today, after a much-appreciated sleep-in and late breakfast, we headed out into warm sunlight for a city tour. Montreal is (i) the largest city in French-speaking Quebec … (ii) the second largest in Canada, with a metropolitan population of nearly 3.5 million … and (iii) built on a large island in the middle of the St Lawrence River. (Try and remember these facts, please, because you will be examined on them when we get back to NZ.)
Our sightseeing included the Notre Dame Cathedral with its remarkable wood-carved altar and balconies, the port, the Olympic Grounds, the Formula One racetracks, and Mont Royal with St Joseph Oratory and a beautiful view over the city.

This afternoon, our mad midlifers escaped in every direction – exploring more of the Old Town, visiting more of the 1000 churches whose spires pierce the skyline, visiting the vast underground shopping centre (a haven from Montreal’s harsh winters), and even renting cycles for an adventure of the two-wheel kind.

Dinner tonight was at Restaurant Essence – just a hop-step-&-jump away from our hotel. And, apart from a few minor sniffles, our combined group (which now numbers 71) will all go to bed well. Good eh?!

PEOPLE NEWS: More Midlife Madness Awards have been won by the following hapless victims:

* The ‘I Left My Heart In San Francisco Award‘ to Jean & Greg – well, what really happened was they left their passports and credit cards and money in Vancouver. Ahh, the panic! Fortunately, the helpful hotel staff not only found the missing valuables but soon had the whole lot sent urgently to Banff where they were reunited with their owners. Ahh, the relief!

* The ‘Lost & Found Kodak Award to Neil – who left his camera at the xray machine in Calgary Airport and has spent the last two days grieving over lost photos. (The camera, thankfully, has been located and will be waiting for lucky Neil in our Boston hotel.)

* The ‘Screaming Heebee Award‘ to Sharon – who got so caught up in the movie she was watching (during the flight from Calgary to Montreal) that, during an especially tense scene, she let out a blood-curdling yell … scaring the living daylights out of her fellow passengers, and causing the crew to enquire if she was okay.

TOMORROW: We board the lovely Maasdam … unpack in our roomy cabins … and begin our second luxury cruise – this time down the eastern seaboard of Canada and New England to the US city of Boston, Massachusetts. So stick with us, ‘coz it’s just gonna get excitinger and excitinger …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

P.S. If you want to leave a message for someone in our group, just click on ‘COMMENTS’ (or ‘NO COMMENTS’) under the title for the day’s blog, and type away! Make sure you say who it’s for and who it’s from – and don’t worry: we’ll make sure they get these messages. Also, if you want a better look at our route map and some of the photos here, just click on them and they’ll enlarge – magic!