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landfall offshore island canada august aout 2011 copyright free photo royalty free photo

Four hours and 55 minutes later (it's useful having a time facility on your camera) we make landfall on the western side of the Atlantic. It may only be a cluster of insignificant offshore islands, but it's North America nevertheless. It won't be long now until we touch down. Four hours and 55 minutes is plenty long enough for me to be witout sight of land.

On the subject of the Atlantic crossing though, I think that it might have been a good idea for Air Transat to have reviewed the content of the in-flight entertainment a little more closely. While they didn't offer Airplane and The Ghost of Flight 401 among their choice of films, I had flown across the Atlantic listening to Alison Krauss's album Paper Airplane. That's enough to put the wind up anyone, and I'm a useless air traveller at the best of times.

hamilton inlet goose bay canada from the air august aout 2011 copyright free photo royalty free photo

Almost immediately we hit the mainland of Canada and according to the visual display, landfall was said to be at Goose Bay in Labrador.

With the advantage of my window seat I could peer out through the clouds and see for myself. And doesn't this look just like the Hamilton Inlet? Ohhhh the happy days that I had driving round there last year on my journey on the Trans-Labrador Highway. .

trans labrador highway  from the air canada august aout 2011 copyright free photo royalty free photo

Talking of the Trans-Labrador Highway, a short while later I noticed that we were flying over what looked like a very long and weary dirt track far below us. Of course, that can be nothing else but the aforementioned road - I remembered it well. I wonder if that was the part that I struggled over for what seemed like hours , making what seemed like barely imperceptible progress.

The other band you can see in the photo is where there are power lines running from the various hydro-electrical plants up there. The vegetation has been cleared out from underneath to stop it fouling the cables in the wind.

Ohhhh - I really must go back to Labrador.

river manicouagan manic 5  from the air canada august aout 2011 copyright free photo royalty free photo

I'm sure that I recognise this part of the road as well, with a very clear outline of what must be a river. This looks like the headwaters of the huge lake that has been formed by the creation of the impressive dam on the River Manicouagan - the dam that is better-known as Manic 5.

I think that down below would be somewhere on this page of my voyage last year . And doesn't it all look so different from up in the air?

Manic 5 dam from the air canada august aout 2011 copyright free photo royalty free photo

And here we are. There's absolutely no doubt at all about where this photograph is. This is certainly the Manic 5 dam. You can see the Trans-Labrador Highway at the bottom of the photo and you will notice where the road crosses over one of the sluices.

If you would like to see this in close-up, then you will need to look at this page .

In fact, if you want to read the complete story of my 2010 adventure along the Trans-Labrador Highway then here is the place to be.

st Lawrence River from the air canada august aout 2011 copyright free photo royalty free photo

If you were to ask me to name my favourite river in the whole world, there is only one candidate for that. And it is of course the St Lawrence. There's something very special about the river and I always look forward to the landfall whenever I fly to Montreal.

And here's our landfall - or maybe I should say riverfall, right by this enormous sandspit. I'll have to do a search on one of these aerial photography sites to work out exactly where I am.
I didn't manage to track it down from the air but in the Spring of 2012 when I was along the north coast of the St Lawrence I did manage to track down what I think that it might be, and more of this in due course.

baie st paul from the air canada august aout 2011 copyright free photo royalty free photo

And you would think that there would be no confusion about which town this might be. And yet for quite a while I was going round telling myself that this could only be La Malbaie and nothing else at all.

It wasn't until a few days later and I was sitting on the cliffs above the town of Baie St Paul and taking photographs of the surroundings that the penny dropped. It's not La Malbaie at all, but Baie St Paul.

trois rivieres bridge pont laviolette from the air canada august aout 2011 copyright free photo royalty free photo

The next photograph is totally unmistakeable. You could show this photo to almost anyone in the whole wide world and they would immediately indentify this bridge and its location. It's such an outstanding bridge and in such a significant location that I can still remember the first time that I encountered it and how disappointed I was that I couldn't find a decent place to photograph it

Anyway, enough of the spectacular build-up. This is of course Trois Rivières and its magnificent bridge, the Pont Laviolette.

From here we passed over some rather banal scenery, including at one point in our flight the city of Québec because somehow I managed to miss that completely. We came into Montreal over the enormous LaFarge quarries on the east of the city and then prepared our run-in to land.

dorval airport aeroport pierre L trudeau montreal canada august aout 2011 copyright free photo royalty free photo

As I mentioned before, it seems as if Air Transat can't afford the Terminal fees here at Dorval, or the Pierre Trudeau International Airport as it is known these days. We tie up somewhere out on the concrete pan and there are some of those War of the Worlds machines like we had at Washington Dulles Airport in 2005 to bring us onto shore.

It's quite a good thing that I only travel on long-haul air flights these days. Airports and air terminals and what is laughingly described as air security stress me out so much that I need the 6 hours in the plane to calm down and chill out ready for the next instalment. And here I am - I don't like flying and I'm very uncomfortable in an aeroplane and so you can imagine just how stressed I am if the flight calms me down so much.

But to my complete and utter surprise if not bewilderment, the airport catches me totally unawares. I'm interrogated by a young long-haired border control girl who smiles at me and asks me two simple questions - so simple in fact that even I could answer them - and that's your lot. Free to cause mayhem amongst the unsuspecting North Americans. And serve them right as well.

When I came over here in 2010, staying in motels for 6 weeks pretty much wiped out my financial resources. This year I put a great deal of thought into the accommodation situation for my month's stay here in Canada. A motel is of course out of the question. My financial situation may have eased quite considerably with the sale of Expo - my large apartment in Brussels - but it's not eased that much.

Enquiries about chalets or residential caravans on camp sites came to naught because no-one ever replied to my emails (a common occurrence when I'm trying to do business on the internet - no response to my enquiries. The western world is supposed to be in recession yet you would never ever think so with people refusing to do business) and the idea of being a paying guest somewhere fell to bits as Rachel couldn't find me a suitable host (it seems that everyone in North America has heard about me).

dodge grand caravan FGL8226 Montreal canada september septembre 2011 copyright free photo royalty free photo

This led to the adoption of Plan B, and as cunning a plan as this I bet you have never ever encountered. And it's so simple too that I'm totally surprised that I had never thought of this before - although I suddenly realise that I had, and back in 2005 too as it happens.

The price for a month's rental of a tiny car was quoted to me as $1335. For an 8-seater Dodge Caravan minivan,the price quoted was a mere $2080 - just $700 or so difference. And for the 25 nights that I would be needing accommodation, that works out at just $28 per night.

dodge grand caravan FGL8226 Montreal canada september septembre 2011 copyright free photo royalty free photo

The advantages of a Dodge Caravan of course include the fact that all of the seats fold flat down into the floor of the vehicle and when they are so arranged, there's enough room in the back of the vehicle that you could hold a dance in there.

The advantages of landing in Montreal include the fact that there are two IKEA shops here - the last IKEA outposts in the east of Canada - and there, they sell cheap furniture and household goods. Yes, I'm off shopping in a minute when I've sorted myself out.

dodge grand caravan FGL8226 Montreal canada september septembre 2011 copyright free photo royalty free photo

All in all, I'm impressed with my choice of vehicle. I don't think much of the colour but then again I don't suppose you can have everything. This will do me just fine for the next four weeks or so.

So with the Sat-Nav plugged in and Lady Who Lives In The Sat-Nav quite comfortable, and a CD in the radio I'm ready for action. And talking of the radio, I notice that it has two buttons, one of which is labelled "push on". I'm extremely disappointed to note that the other one is not labelled "push off".

I'm decanted onto the Canadian highway system just in time for the evening rush hour - isn't that a surprise? And no less surprising is the fact that I'm decanted right into the middle of road works with lane closures and sliproad closures and bottlenecks. This totally confuses the Lady Who Lives In The Sat-Nav - yes, let's start as we mean to go on.

And my first impressions of Montreal in 2011? I hadn't been here 10 minutes before a Volvo p1800 drove across the road in front of me. When was the last time I saw one of those in the UK? I can remember that last time that it was in North America - driving over the Canjillon Pass in New Mexico in 2002

Shopping proved profitable as well. The nearest Walmart came up trumps with a small camping stove and a few other bits and pieces, as well as a supply of food to keep me going for a while and an enormous plastic box to keep it all in.

It also supplied me, most unexpectedly, with a mobile phone. I'd gone in there to find a SIM card to use in this ancient Nokia that I have. Much to my surprise, you have to buy them here. They aren't free like in Europe. But chatting to the girl in the store, she told me about a modern 3G Samsung with touch screen, a camera (and didn't that come in handy in a subsequent year?) and an extensible memory and which can be used as a *mp3 player and which can be used to access the internet, cost just $45. That included the cost of the SIM card and also came with $15 call credit.

I'm not going to turn that down - that's for sure. When I was on my travels last year I bitterly regretted not having sorted one out. I'm not going to make this mistake again.

I didn't make it to IKEA though. It was 20:00 by the time I had finished in Walmart. And, rather ominously, It was pitch-black. I don't like the look of this.

From here it was across the top of Montreal to the Howard Johnson Motel for my first night - a motel described by a travel magazine as "shabby but genteel" …
"that should suit you then, Eric" said Helena when I told her about it later.
"Not really" I replied. "I'm not genteel"
… and which is regularly slated by reviewers who have totally lost sight of the fact that -

  1. … it's the cheapest mainstream motel in Montreal
  2. … it has a commanding position right at the side of the main highway out of Montreal to the east
  3. … it's just a cockstride from a huge Canadian Tire outlet, a huge Walmart and a mega-shopping centre, the Galeries Anjou, with a Home Depot 10 minutes away.

It annoys me these people who expect Rolls Royce luxury for the price of a bus ticket.

On the way up to there I also heard two car horns go off. That's two more than in the whole of the 6 weeks that I was here last year and what I bet is a complete and utter surprise to all of you is that neither of them was aimed at me.

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