February 13, 2018: The second day of the tour involved a lot of stops! First, after a little bit of breakfast in our own hotel room, we set off to Saint Joseph’s Oratory (3800 Queen Mary Rd, Montreal, QC) in Mont Royal in Montreal, Quebec. This “is Canada’s largest church and claims to have one of the largest domes in the world.”
Upon hearing that Saint Brother André’s heart was actually kept behind glass as a sort of attraction for visitors to see, I knew that I had actually visited this church before on the same tour when I was younger. I remember when the tour guide mentioned it as being one of the day things we would see the next day, I was so excited and intrigued that we were going to view the heart of someone who had passed away.
Stepping into the church though, I remember nothing that was familiar about the place. It indeed was a very large church and had escalators to bring you to various rooms. I found it fascinating that there was also a huge mural that had been hand-painted long ago but since the artist had passed on, they had left a message to allow the mural to age naturally. Thus, without any touch-ups to refresh this mural, it will slowly fade away with the passage of time and space. It also means that each time tourists come to visit, they will see a different version of the painting as it ages. It was quite neat.
After the visit to the church, we swung by Old Montreal for a visit to the Notre-Dame Basilica (110 Notre-Dame St W, Montreal, QC) for those who wanted to tour the inside of it. For us, we just strolled the streets and shops in the early morning chill. (I also passed by the La Maison du Magret that I dined at when I was in Montreal this past summer.)
Next up was the Montreal Biodome (4777 Pierre-de Coubertin Ave, Montreal, QC) for a visit inside. This was my fourth time visiting the Biodome and I kind of already was so familiar with the exhibits within it. XD (The first visit was when I was a child on this same Chinese tour two decades ago, the second time was on the East Coast trip across Canada, and the third time was when a friend and I visited Montreal in the summer.)
It really is a nice biodome and worth at least one visit to see all of their exhibits. This time, I paid particular attention to the bats that were inside the man-made caves — the little bats were actually quite adorable. I also saw the penguins get fed! I found it funny that some of the penguins weren’t moving at all and just staring above into the sky. Do they get bored?
After this, it was lunch time! Instead of joining the tour’s lunch package (where the restaurant of the day was a Mandarin Chinese buffet lunch), we found a Vietnamese and Thai restaurant who was able to accommodate our hour-long allotment time to serve us. The lunch special was really good!
In travelling from Montreal to Quebec after lunch, we made a pit stop in Saint-Nicholas.
The next stop on the itinerary was to somewhere I hadn’t been to before, which was the Observatoire de la Capitale (1037 Rue de la Chevrotière, Ville de Québec, QC), a viewing space on the 31st floor of the Marie-Guyart Building, the city’s tallest skyscraper at 132m. We were the only tourists here at the time (I guess it’s no surprise since it was a random Tuesday in February!) so we were able to take up all of the viewing space.
The floor was entirely open to viewing, so we could see all four sides from where we were. The tour guide explained the views and the buildings that were viewable from the observatory. It was neat to be able to see the east coast side into New Brunswick and so on.
I also liked the fun Canadian facts on the floor-to-ceiling murals.
After this visit, we were dropped off in Quebec City’s Old Town to explore and walk around. We were in the dead of winter and it was quite cold, but the air was crisp and fresh.
There were some wintery ice sculptures and then we headed inside of the Château Frontenac (1 Rue des Carrières, Ville de Québec, QC) to browse around. Apparently there was a Korean drama filmed here where one of the cast used the mailbox in front of the elevators as a prop. We took pictures here with it despite not having watched the series.
As the sun set, we arrived at the Ice Hotel (1860 Boulevard Valcartier, Saint-Gabriel-de-Valcartier, QC), our last stop on the itinerary for day number two. I hadn’t been to an ice hotel before and was highly excited to be able to see it with my own eyes and experience it. The Ice Hotel (Hôtel de Glace) was previously located elsewhere but due to warming conditions, they relocated it to Village Vacances Valcartier, an amusement park that features other attractions as well. (The Ice Hotel was open this season from December 23, 2017 to March 25, 2018.)
Apparently, this ice hotel in Quebec is the only true ice hotel in all of North America! From its exterior, you wouldn’t know that they had so many rooms inside. It was nicely sculpted and designed so that almost every room was unique with its own artwork on the walls or contained unique ice sculptures. We were able to visit at this time before 6 p.m. or so when the guests would check in to stay for the night. We browsed the ice bar, the great hall, took a ride down the ice slide (so fun), and walked through the hallways where the rooms were.
Outside, there was also a small ice chapel too!
After this cool little visit (literally), we went for dinner. This final dinner of the night was also offered as a meal package but our family decided not to go with it. Thus, while the other tourmates went to a French restaurant for a prix fixe meal, we found a Spanish restaurant called Copas that night to dine in. The service was really nice and the food was decent and plentiful.
Our second hotel of the trip was at Comfort Inn where we got a really spacious room. However, the room was a bit dated.