Ride the Rails to Montreal, Ottawa & Quebec!

Feb 3-9, 2020

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“Work, Travel, Save, Repeat”

solo-tour-canada-quebecAll Aboard, AFSers – Montreal, Ottawa and Quebec City await you! Talk about a unique and exciting winter vacay! Come join the fun festivities of the World’s Largest Winter Festival -attracting global visitors since 1894. Our totally new adventure starts in the regal capital of Ottawa, traversing via train to stylish Montreal with all things French and ending in the fairytale setting of Quebec City. Amid sparkling snowscapes and shimmering ice, Canadians celebrate winter best with heated outdoor venues and creative snow activities that are simply delightful.

Seeking fun? This visit to our northern neighbors is packed with special activities. Quebec’s Carnival de Quebec has huge outdoor events with vibrant fireworks, parades, concerts, crazy contests and insane ice sculptures. There’s horse drawn sleigh rides, snow baths, igloos, snow bikes, ice slides, BBQ in the Frost Garden, the Royal Court, Ice Village, and even snow zorbing! Enjoy cocktails in North America’s only ice hotel. Sample Canadian delicacies that will knock your wooly socks off. Maple syrup flows like champagne! Your best photos will be dogsledding behind our huskies and of sculptures at the International Ice Carving Competition!

AFS-Solo_travel-CandaThere’s so much more that will give you chills. You’ll love touring historic old towns in 2 provinces. In Ottawa, taste your way through the incredible Byward Market and skate on the famous Rideau Canal. Charming French-speaking Montreal will have you convinced you are really in France. Tour the Notre Dame Basilica, Mount Royal and stroll the elegant boulevards or cobblestoned streets. Enjoy a Culinary Walking Tour in the eclectic and trendy Mile End neighborhood. Stunning Quebec City is a UNESCO site on its own. Shop… or snack your way along St. Paul Street and dive into the exciting nightlife of the province of Quebec. French Canadians can rival Europeans when it comes to partying, so be prepared!

We have an expert your director with us throughout to let us know what’s hot and what’s not. Our chariot on this adventure is the Canada’s VIA railway, speeding across the snow-covered landscape and allowing us to take in so much in this short amount of time. You’ll love our fine hotels – in the center of everything! Be sure to visit Canada’s new Thermal Spas that are popping up everywhere!

Understand that Canada is never cheap, but we’ve squeezed maple syrup from our Canadian team, to make this affordable for you with all entrance fees included. It’s the best value price you’ll find. For 2020 travelers, cool Canada is a HOT destination. And so easy for us to reach. So near, so exciting, and it won’t come round again. #FOMO Together, let’s celebrate the world’s largest winter carnival for a vacation beyond imagination.

Lonely Planet says…

In Québec City, the capital of French Canada, winters are ridiculously long (it can snow anytime from October to May) and residents have learned to make the most of the bone-numbing cold.
The result? Carnaval de Québec, an exuberant 17-day fête of winter’s deep freeze in January or February, billed as the world’s largest winter celebration. Here’s how to make the most of this frigid festival.  Click here to read more…

solo travel group canada

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Canada by Rail 

Our Glorious AFS Itinerary

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OTTAWA

Download printable PDF itinerary

Day 1 – Mon, Feb. 3 – Welcome to Canada!           D (meal)

You’ll arrive to Ottawa on your own and make your way to our fabulous hotel, the Radisson (402 Queen Street). Located on the bustling Parliament Hill, we are right in the heart of the city. You’ll have free time in the afternoon to explore this stunning and vibrant city. Our tour manager will direct us on where to go. We will head to the nearby Byward Market, one of Canada’s oldest and largest public markets Chockfull of shopping, restaurants and activities, the massive historic Marché (remember Canada has is dual language) stretches for blocks. Talk about sensory overload! There is craft stalls, artisan food stands, hip shops, farmers market, cool rustic taverns, even a spa. Sample the maple taffy and chocolates, Canadian cheeses and ice wines. This is Ottowa’s #1 tourist attraction for 193 years.

In the evening, we’ll celebrate with a Welcome Dinner at Tucker’s Marketplace. A Canadian institution, Tucker’s is known for its all-you-can-eat buffet with specialties from all around the world.

Overnight: Radisson (2 nights at the Raddison you’ll love the heated indoor pool and high speed WiFi)

Day 2 – Tues, Feb. 4 – Ottawa Tour               B

We get to know this Canadian Capital with a city tour. Founded in 1826 when the Rideau Canal was inaugurated, Ottawa has been the political epicenter of the country Ottawasince 1857.  Visit Parliament hill, the Prime Minister’s residence, the residence of the Governor General of Canada, the Ottawa locks and much more! The beautiful Rideau Canal is a true highlight and this time of year it is even more so because it is frozen over, making it the largest skateway in the world! Almost 5 miles of length, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We’ll have some free time for lunch on our own downtown before heading to the Canadian Museum of History. It is self-guided so take your time to stroll through this modern museum devoted to the history of Canada from the prehistoric times on the continent to the modern era.

Your evening is free to enjoy Ottawa on your own. From comedy clubs to microbreweries to jazz clubs, there is plenty to do. Lace up your rental skates and lets join the locals for ice skating on the famous Canal Rideau.

Overnight: Radisson (2 nights)

Day 3 – Wed, Feb. 5 –   All Aboard to Montreal!                 B

If you are a fan of architecture, gastronomy and history – this is your place! Our VIA train adventure begins in the morning as we head to Montreal.  Arrive in Montreal midday and we’ll have time to grab some lunch on our own at the Montreal Central Station before we begin our City Tour.

Montreal is the second most populated French-speaking city in the world after Paris and is the financial capital of the province of Quebec. The original French architecture is very much evident, especially in the historic neighborhoods. We visit Mount Royal, the ancient volcano at the heart of the city and then explore the shrine which is the Saint-Joseph Oratory. Have your mind blown at the famed shopping Mecca that is the underground city and visit the Olympic Stadium built for the Summer Olympics of 1976!

The best part is we are staying in charming Old Montreal at the Place d’Armes Hotel. It’s so close to everything, including the massive gothic Notre-Dame-de-Montreal Basilica where we will take a self-guided tour. The hotel is also near Montreal’s Old Port on the St. Lawrence Seaway. It’s a perfect location for you to spend your free evening and discover just how magical Montreal is by night. Remember, too, that Montreal is home to the celebrated “Just for Laughs” festival in the summer so comedy reigns king here and comedy clubs are a fun evening option.

Overnight: Place d’Armes Hotel (2 nights – lucks boutique hotel in the heart of old Montreal is award-winning with its Rain Spa)

Day 4 – Thurs, Feb. 6  – Food Tour of Old Montreal                    B L

You’ll be given a 1-day unlimited pass for public transport at the beginning of the day and be prepared to make the most of it! Montreal is an island and the modern mass transit system is the perfect way to explore. We’ll use it to head to the Plateau Mont-Royal for a guided tour. Once on the Plateau, we begin a Culinary Walking Tour in the area known as the Mile-End, considered Canada’s most creative neighborhood. Here you find two completely different worlds living in parallel – the traditional Jewish culture and a growing presence of young hipsters drawn to the trendy, artsy vibe and multicultural roots. Our tour will take us to a half a dozen stops with food from almost any ethnicity imaginable. The eclectic Mile End neighborhood is just one of the reasons know why Montreal is a foodie’s paradise.

In the afternoon, take advantage of your transport pass to explore Montreal on your own. The Jardin Botanique de Montreal (Botanical Garden) is spectacular at any time of year. There are countless museums including specialties such as the Greven Wax Museum or a museum dedicated to Barbie! Or you can make your way to Rue de Saint Denis, lined by an array of bars and restaurants

Overnight: Place d’Armes Hotel (2 nights)

Day 5 – Fri, Feb. 7, 2020 – Train to Quebec City                     B Dsolo tour Quebec

All aboard in the morning for spectacular Quebec City, Canada’s only walled city, arriving at midday. Historic Quebec City is enchanting and becomes even more so as the whole city comes alive with Carnaval de Québec.We’ll be right in the middle of the celebration!Lunch is on your own in the picturesque Old Port along historic St. Paul Street. St. Paul is home to art galleries, historical monuments and countless restaurants offering various types of cuisine and now all decorated for the festivities. Old Quebec is a UNESCO World Heritage site and we’ll be staying at its heart at the Delta Hotel. Nearby are the National Assembly of Quebec, the Tourny Fountain and the famous Frontenac Castle, the most photographed hotel in the world. Free time to shop. Old Town is bursting with unique shops and specialty products.

In late afternoon we take a guided tour of the stunning Hotel de Glace of Québec! Each year, a new ice hotel is built with a new design. It is only open in the winter and every year it has a different design with as many as 50 rooms as well as a chapel for weddings. Admire the ice sculptures and sip a cocktail in the iconic ice glasses.

AFS-soloWe wrap the day with a Quebecois tradition – dinner in a local Sugar Shack complete with music, dance and a sweet menu featuring traditional maple ham and sausages, chicken, and yummy maple syrup crepes for dessert.

Overnight: Delta Hotel (2 nights)

Day 6 – SAT, Feb. 8.   – Quebec Winter Carnival             B

Today is a free day to take in all that is available with the Quebec Winter Carnival. A yearly celebration in Quebec City since 1894, the Winter Carnival is the biggest and oldest winter carnival in the world! The city is filled with winter enthusiasts ready to celebrate the snowy season. Go sledding, snowshoeing, or zorbing. Take in the amazing ice carving competition and the Ice Palace. And of course sample the foods and drinks that have become winter carnival staples, like poutine, a Beavertail Pastry, maple taffy or the liquor drink Caribou. Take advantage of our optional dogsledding excursion…mush! Celebrate winter behind a team of huskies that whisk you across gorgeous landscape, you’ll get great pictures of this Nordic pleasure ($85).

At the end of the day is the not-to-be-missed parade!!! The streets of the Old City come alive our last night of our tour with the Carnival’s celebrated parade. The energy hits a crescendo as musicians, cirquesters and many more perform along the route through these sparkling historic streets.  We’ll be dancing in the streets right along with them in this colorful celebration.

Overnight: Delta Hotel (2 nights)

Day 7 – SUN, Feb. 9  –     Back to US                    B

After breakfast it’s time to say goodbye to this charming northern city and winter wonderland. We head to the airport with memories of a trip well never forget.

BOOK NOW  or call 770-432-8225  If trip full, then  WAITLIST 

Land Price $ 1898
Deposit $500  (no second deposit)
Based upon 30 participants

Air details on your own or our group air in Trip Tips emailed to you after deposit paid

Includes: First class accommodations, expert local guides, train tickets, private coach in cities, Montreal subway 1-day pass, AFS GTL and meals as stated

Not included: Gratuities

All prices are per person twin share.  Single rooms limited per group and a single supplement applies.  Cost set by

  •  All prices are per person twin share.  Single rooms limited per group and a single supplement applies.  Cost set by hotel/cruiseline and vary considerably.  AFS will find you a roommate match. All hotel rooms are “run of house.”  
  • Please review AFS Terms and Conditions as well as Heading Abroad with AFS.  
  • Land – Price based on a minimum number of trip participants, as well as local currency exchange rates which can fluctuate.
  • We write our itineraries over a year in advance. Though unlikely, we always reserve the right to modify schedules, tours and hotels if necessary. 
  • Group air – Airlines may add surcharges to offset fuel inflation or taxes. The total ticket cost is not final until we receive your final payment and the group is ticketed. If doing own air, airport transfer may or may not be included depending on your air schedule. Do not buy air until the group air is set or we advise – though unlikely, airlines, times and dates can change!

Group Air -In emailed Trip Tips when offered.

  •  All prices are per person twin share.  Single rooms limited per group and a single supplement applies.  Cost set by hotel/cruiseline and vary considerably.  AFS will find you a roommate match. All hotel rooms are “run of house.”  
  • Please review AFS Terms and Conditions as well as Heading Abroad with AFS.  
  • Land – Price based on a minimum number of trip participants, as well as local currency exchange rates which can fluctuate.
  • We write our itineraries over a year in advance. Though unlikely, we always reserve the right to modify schedules, tours and hotels if necessary. 
  • Group air – Airlines may add surcharges to offset fuel inflation or taxes. The total ticket cost is not final until we receive your final payment and the group is ticketed. If doing own air, airport transfer may or may not be included depending on your air schedule. Do not buy air until the group air is set or we advise – though unlikely, airlines, times and dates can change!

 

AFS TRIP TIPS CANADA

We will present Tips soon.  For now, here is an article from USA Today about visiting Montreal.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/destinations/2019/08/21/montreal-canada-visit-here-five-travel-tips-americans-quebec/2056798001/

First time in Montreal? Here are 5 things you should do

MONTREAL — Less than three miles from the St. Lawrence River, a small wooded mountain stands just 764 feet above sea level but still lays down the law from high above the surrounding metropolis.

This is Mount Royal, a landmark that gave this city its name, according to local legend — “Mont-real.” It also has been such an important part of the landscape that local regulations have forbidden any nearby buildings from rising above its highest point.

Compared to Toronto, New York or even Cleveland, Montreal’s skyline scales short in stature as a result. But Montreal’s depth — not height — is what really makes it stand out, especially for Americans seeking a European-style adventure just an hour or so north of the border.

Here are five tips and observations from a recent summer vacation here and other French Canadian stops in Quebec province.

It was a trendy time to visit. Last year, Canada’s second-most populous metro area hosted a record 1.6 million American tourists, a number that is expected to grow again this year with 700 weekly direct flights from 29 American cities, according to the Montreal’s tourism authority.

Go underground

Part of the underground city in Montreal.

Part of the underground city in Montreal. (Photo: Brent Schrotenboer)

Who needs giant skyscrapers when you’ve got an underground city? Beneath Montreal lays a subterranean mall, subway and tunnel system that’s like something from a dream. Descend via scores of outside entry points and find a labyrinthine network of pathways that covers about 20 miles. Here you can shop or walk in warmth in the winter and step out of the sun or occasional rain during the rest of the year.

Besides that, we found this system to be much easier than driving a car downtown, with all of its one-way streets and infamous road construction during peak tourism season in the summer.

Souvenir shops even sell pillows and fridge magnets depicting “Rue Barree,” a famous street sign. But “Rue Barree” is not a famous boulevard in the historic part of the city. It’s a construction warning in French, meaning “street closed.”

We ordered an Uber for longer treks across town (no Lyft available as of August 2019). To get an even better sense of the city, walk through its diverse neighborhoods, which are dotted by lush parks and restaurants offering flavors from France, China, Syria and beyond. They fan out from Old Montreal, the more Parisian, upscale section of downtown near the river.

Taste-travel the world

After landing at the airport, our Uber driver posed an important question for his American guests: “Will you try poutine?”

This ubiquitous Montreal dish blends gravy and cheese curds over a pile of fries. The best place to go for it, he said, was La Banquise, a 24-hour joint offering 30 different variations. Go with an empty stomach and a hankering for classic Canadian comfort food — meaning a heavier meal with multiple local beer options.

As satisfying as it was, it just didn’t rank near the top of our food experiences here. But that’s largely because there were so many other savory bites to sample, including buckwheat-based crepes at the Jean-Talon Market in Little Italy and minced lamb brochettes with pomegranate tahini sauce at KazaMaza, a Middle Eastern restaurant.

Your first visit to Montreal also isn’t really official until you’ve stood in line for a meal at Schwartz’s deli, famous for its smoked meat sandwiches with mustard on rye for about $8 (U.S. dollars). The anticipation that built during the wait outside probably made it taste even better than it was, which was especially scrumptious with a dill pickle and cole slaw.

Classic French still won our palates in the end. Our favorite dinner came from L’Express, a bistro founded in 1980. The caper-infused steak tartare, with frites, cost about $21 (U.S. dollars). It hit the spot after midnight, when restaurants and bars stay open until 2 or 3 a.m.

Parc it

Mount Royal Park rules the roost here for a reason. 

It was designed by the same person — Frederick Law Olmsted — who designed Central Park in New York, and it has the same effect. The park becomes an urban oasis in the summer, lined by bike paths, shaded trails for hikers and views from near the summit that attract tourists and locals. And if it gets a little too muggy in the summer, there’s a chalet to cool off near the top, where you can buy a local Bec cranberry soda sweetened by maple syrup. 

Keep in mind it’s a different world here during the city’s cold white winters, which is why outdoor parks in Montreal are especially popular for quiet leisure during warmer, greener parts of the year.

The most beautiful is probably Montreal’s vibrant botanical garden across town, among the world’s largest at about 185 acres. Tickets cost about $15 (U.S.).

As you stroll through its collection of 22,000 plant species and cultivars, look up and behold something that looks like part of an upside-down Starship Enterprise. This is the iconic Montreal Tower, connected to Olympic Stadium in Parc Olympique, site of the 1976 Olympic summer games. The tower leans toward the river at 45 degrees and is the world’s tallest inclining tower in the world at 541 feet. A funicular ride to the top also costs about $15 (U.S.) and provides panoramic man-made views to rival the natural lookouts at Mount Royal.

Respect the language and carry cash

As the cradle of French civilization in North America, the province of Quebec does almost everything in French — menus, road signs and local conversations. But not once did we encounter a failure to communicate using English. That’s because so many people here have learned English as a second language.

About 45% of the population in Quebec speaks both English and French, according to the 2016 census. It still helps to know a little basic French, even if it’s just to show the locals you’re making an effort, which they appreciate.

Some businesses here also appreciate Canadian cash or debit only and don’t take credit cards. If they do accept credit cards, some don’t take American Express. For Americans, the best way to avoid fees and bad rates on cash currency exchanges is to plan ahead instead of making a cash dash to a convenience-store ATM in Canada. Sometimes your American bank can order Canadian dollars for you to exchange before your trip.

Venture outside Montreal

Montmorency Falls outside of downtown Quebec City. A pedestrian bridge crosses over top, and a rainbow shows in the bottom right.

Montmorency Falls outside of downtown Quebec City. A pedestrian bridge crosses over top, and a rainbow shows in the bottom right. (Photo: Brent Schrotenboer)

The best time to get behind a steering wheel in Montreal is when you want to venture outside of it.

Driving is pretty easy once you get out of town and into the parts of Quebec where British loyalists once sought refuge from the American Revolution. These are the Eastern Townships, covered in green trees in the summer and a peaceful detour on the way to Quebec City less than three hours away. We stopped at a winery for lunch in Dunham and spent the night at a bed-and-breakfast in the small town of Magog, with its old-fashioned main street of shops and restaurants next to Lake Memphremagog.

We also ventured into nearby Vermont, where there was no wait at the border when we entered in Derby Line. Just bring your passport. And if you venture further east to Quebec City, bring your appetite and your camera.

This multilayered city is a nice slice of Paris in North America, fortified on the St. Lawrence River with castle-like architecture, cobblestone streets with shopping and possibly even better restaurants than Montreal, including our favorite, Aux Anciens Canadiens. This red-roofed time capsule serves provincial cuisine such as old-fashioned meat pies, bison stew and apple cheesecake with maple caramel

You can burn the calories the next morning with a walk up and over another of Quebec’s natural wonders just outside of downtown — Montmorency Falls. The white water drops 272 feet, creating a rainbow with the mist below if the sun is shining just right.

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