Chute à Magnan, off route 350, between Saint-Paulin and Charette

My hosts mentioned there was a waterfall just off the main road, and it did not disappoint. It is only just over a kilometre’s walk from Gite La Voisine, and an easy stop from the road. On one side, where you can park, is what you might initially think is the waterfall, as water tumbles over a man-made fall. I was running back to the B&B from parkrun when I remembered the recommendation, and was very glad I made the stop.

View back toward the bridge
View back toward the bridge.
On one side of the river, the man-made bit
On one side of the river, the man-made bit. This is beautiful, but hardly the highlight.

Follow the sign to the walking circuit, though, under the road bridge to the right, and the vista opens up. It was particularly beautiful in Fall/Autumn, with the trees changing colour by the day. I turned left once under the road bridge, walking through trees to another bridge, which gave a view over the valley. Just beyond the bridge is a rocky outcrop which gives even better views. At that point I figured I had seen all the beauty there was to see, and nearly ran off up the unsealed road to join route 350.

Leaves of many colours
Leaves of many colours.
View from the top
View from the top – turn left once near the waterfall, follow the path over the bridge to get to this spot.
A rocky promontory with a view of the water
A rocky promontory with a view of the water.

But just below the promontory is a building, and the unsealed road clearly leads there. Pondering that, and letting my eyes roam, I noticed another, smaller, bridge at the bottom of the road, and figured I should at least walk down there.

Panorama from the rock
Panorama from the rock.

The views certainly don’t get any worse for being lower down. The walking circuit was a little unmaintained in places, with one section of boardwalk collapsed and presenting a challenge because of the slippery rain-sodden surface. But it is a lovely walk, alternately taking you through wooded areas, opening up to great views and with autumn’s colours all around.

Portrait panorama - red leaves, rock and water
Portrait panorama – red leaves, rock and water.
Waterfall running into a lake
Waterfall running into a lake.
The waterfall and the lake
The waterfall and the lake.
Lake like a lagoon
The waterfall and the lake.Lake like a lagoon
View of lake and waterfall through a covered bridge
I spotted this bridge from the top of the walking circuit. It’s worth the walk down (and back up).

Me, on the covered bridge

The walk back up
The walk back up – to the left of the lake
View of the bridge at the top
View of the bridge at the top. The track is on the left, it’s worth following the offshoot that brings you onto these rocks, for a different view.
View over the lake
View over the lake.

Saint-Paulin parkrun – the independent traveller’s guide

If you’re looking for a short version, many would sum this post up as: it’s fiddly to use public transport to get to Saint-Paulin. Hire a car – use turo.com to rent from a local if you want to keep the cost down – and then you can visit all the sights you want.

Saint-Paulin parkrun route
Saint-Paulin parkrun route – 3 out-and-back loops.

Still, I did not do that. The trains do not go every day, let alone multiple times per day. I ended up on an early train from Montreal (8:15 on Friday), coming back on a late-afternoon train (18:06) from Charette. Journey time is about 2 hours, though bank on the trains being a little late – 30 mins on the way out, for me. Smaller stops are requests, though you don’t have to manage that yourself; in North American fashion, each carriage has a conductor, here checking tickets, looking after refreshments and talking to train/track control about stops.

I didn’t contact the event team at Saint-Paulin, so it’s possible you could do so and stay with someone there, but in my research, the cheapest accommodation was at Gite la Voisine, near Charette. They have four rooms in a variety of configurations, and offer a single person discount; B&B at $76.10 (CAD) for one, $96.25 (CAD) for two people. Not bad at all. There is a campsite near to Saint-Elie, which is a little too far away for me to run (15km or so), but wouldn’t be a bad drive at all, and you’d probably save enough to cover the car hire.

I chose to jog to the start, which is a little over 5km – don’t be fooled if Google maps loses the plot and starts telling you it is 8km, as it did me the night before. You’ll run along a road, but it has a wide verge and is fine. My host offered a lift, and I’m sure she’d do the same for you if required. As a bonus, she had already heard of parkrun, so I didn’t have to explain too much – I hope they take in many more tourists, and are among many who feel the benefit of having the run in town.

The run is easy to find, as it starts right by the multi-use sports centre. That said, if you are there around 8:30, you may see the event team round the back of the centre, sorting the gear out. Don’t be disconcerted if, arriving a few minutes later, or being distracted for a moment, you then spot the event team get in their car and drive off – they are just coning off the turns, and will be back. Arriving at 8:50 will see everything in place.

As for the run itself, it’s a 3-lapper, and each lap is an out-and-back horseshoe. It is on very quiet roads, which are coned off for the run. The day I did it, the volunteer team was mum and two kids, who were charming. The youngest, covering scanning and tokens, ran off to join a group of women who were walk/running as they finished and started each lap.

Attendance was quiet for me, just 11 people finishing, though they have another group who come along every week to walk just a couple of laps, happy doing their own thing without registration, scanning, emails and the like. It is a lovely community event.

 

Afterwards we chatted, a runner gave me some tomatoes from his garden, while another told me all about the huskies he breeds, trains and races – up to 400km – which was fascinating. Just the two of us had retired to the local cafe, round the corner from the run, which is brand new in 2018 (previously a flooring shop) and has delicious bubble tea and great-looking cakes.

All parkruns are great, but it’s always a privilege to get a view of the community that underpins one, and that is particularly easy in a relatively isolated and small, in number, one like this. As a result, I’d recommend this one particularly highly.

Fall colours in Quebec; Charette and Saint-Élie

I walked from the railway station in Charette to Gite la Voisine, which is just over 4km – along a road, but there is plenty of space, and drivers were uniformly respectful, moving over to give me extra room even though I was well off the road. As a result of this walk, and my turning down a couple of offers of a lift, the Gite owner decided I was quite the walker, and recommended heading for Saint Élie, “un village touristique”, about 10km away. And back via a different road (on the right in the map below) because of its beautiful trees.

Why not, I thought, with all afternoon to complete it in. In case I needed more incentive, I was promised a short climb behind the church in Saint-Élie would give me great views of the area.

Walking from Gite la Voisine to Saint-Élie
Walking from Gite la Voisine to Saint-Élie. 23km.
Picturesque stream
Picturesque stream, edge of Saint-Élie.

The walk to Saint-Élie itself was nothing to write home about, but perfectly pleasant on a decent day. Most interesting were the houses, as it is quiet out here yet people obviously have money. Spot the house with a helicopter in the backyard, apparently where the owner of a local eco-park lives.

Wooded path, behind the church, to the view
Wooded path, behind the church, to the view.
Saint-Élie sign, outskirts of the village
Saint-Élie sign, outskirts of the village.
Sculpture, outside Garage de la Culture
Sculpture, outside Garage de la Culture.
Garage de la Culture
Garage de la Culture.
l'Arbre a Papermane
l’Arbre a Papermane – sou can just see the paper objets hanging from the tree.

Saint-Élie is very pretty, with a few shops, including a food store (at the garage) and bakery with very friendly owner. Wander past the church and graveyard to take the walk to the top. There is a clearly signposted route for walkers, which I took, and is a lovely walk through the woods. If you’re in a hurry, though, go straight up the road in front of you, for a shortcut.

Outdoor worship behind the church
Outdoor worship behind the church.
Leave colours - green, yellow, orange, red
Leaf colours – green, yellow, orange, red.
Jesus and Gabriel sculpture
Jesus and Gabriel sculpture (and list of donors).
Fall leaf colours sprouting on a rock
Fall leaf colours sprouting on a rock.
View from the top of montagne de calvaire
View from the top of montagne de calvaire.
Outdoor worship, top of montagne de calvaire
Outdoor worship, top of montagne de calvaire.

Religious iconography abounds.

Selfie at the top
Selfie at the top. Lakes abound in the landscape. None pictured.
Am I impressed by the religious art?
Am I impressed by the religious art?
I am super impressed by the crosses
I am super impressed by the crosses.
Figures on crosses
Figures on crosses.
Looking out from the top
Looking out from the top.
Cross and chapel
Cross and chapel (or storage area – looks like the service happens outside).
Sun shines on a few red/orange leaves
Sun shines on a few red/orange leaves.
Red leaves in Canada
Red leaves in Canada.

Then, the return, and the rue with plenty of arbres I had been promised. With the leaves changing colour for Fall/Autumn, this was a rare treat. It’s a quiet road, too, so there isn’t much traffic to interrupt the reverie through the different colours.

Close-up of red leaves
Close-up of red leaves.
Pretty trees on Rue 4 Rang
Pretty trees on Rue 4 Rang.
One red tree among several green ones
One red tree among several green ones.
One red tree among several green ones
One red tree among several green ones.
Tall trees
Tall trees, variety of leaf colours.
Leaves of different colours
Leaves of different colours.
Rue 4 Rang
Rue 4 Rang.
Painted stones, Charette
Painted stones, Charette.

On a good day, with sun but without being too hot, the whole thing was a pleasure, leaving me footsore but full of the joys of being outside.

Alexander Calder: Radical Inventor, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal)

On a Wednesday night, the Museum is slightly cheaper. Sort of. I say sort of, because for someone of my age, it is normally $23, Weds eve is $11.50. Simple, right? Not so fast – with that $23, you normally get access to the other galleries, but those are closed on a Wednesday evening. Price to enter if you want to go back some other time? $15. So if you have the time and inclination, pay the $23, remember it’s CAD, so more reasonable than the US (this is relevant if you have just come from the latter), and see the lot.

Calder exhibition poster

Still, one major exhibition may be enough, and if that’s what you want to see, this is the most cost effective. In case you are feeling guilty, they will ask if you want to donate as you pay, so you can make the price whatever you like (so long as it is a minimum of $11.50).

Montreal’s museum pricing is rather lovely – up to the age of 30, in many places you can get in for free. I like that, even though I don’t qualify. I can’t explain why that seems fine, when being able to get a working holiday visa only up to the age of 30 around the world seems less so, but still – good on you. Canada is just generally very civilised. On that note, apropos of nothing related to this post – US and UK airports, functional. Switching planes in Toronto – follow the sign to refreshments in the domestic terminal, and there is tea, coffee, soft drinks and snacks, all free, more substantial stuff there to buy. It all adds to my general feeling that this place is one of the world’s best-kept secrets. In the US, the educated will nod when you mention socialism, and suggest “it isn’t a dirty word!”, but the propaganda has got to them. Here, they can actually discuss it.

Arbitrary measures of civilisation aside, any city with a well kept Fine Art museum has something going for it, and this is a fine one. I don’t know enough about Calder to offer commentary, so know just that I gleaned this from the exhibition: he invented the mobile, and introduced the idea of large-scale public whimsical sculptures. Wikipedia is likely to do a better job than I can manage. But I took some photos.

Montreal – street art

I won’t pretend this is a comprehensive post about Montreal’s street art; there’s so much, and much of it I haven’t seen. But still, to give you a flavour of the place, here is a small selection, all from a walk; Berri-UQAM to Mont-Royal Ave W.

Kangaroo sculpture made from bike parts
Bike-part kangaroo. Just in someone’s front yard.
Car port art
Car port art. A caption on the other side suggests “all street art owes a debt to graffiti”.
Street side art
Street side art.
Art and park
Art and park.
Street art covering a building wall, on a sunny day
Look at that sky – cool air, but warm sun, late September.

Delaware and Raritan Canal parkrun, NJ, USA

Delaware and Raritan Canal parkrun route
Delaware and Raritan Canal parkrun route – straightforward out and back.

The US is seeing a welcome boom in parkrun events – at the time of writing, event 25 is about to start, and that number will soon seem very small. For now, though, there is only one event near New York, and that is this one. It’s Southwest, even of Newark (where I stayed, and quite an edgy place) and needs a bit of transport planning. Some people drive, of course, and the locals have got you covered – check the event’s Facebook page and you’ll find a regular weekly call out for those travelling from New York, who will be directed to a volunteer who can pick them up from New Brunswick or another station.

It worked for us, anyway, with three of us getting picked up after the train pulled in at 8:11 (back of the train, John, was the instruction I didn’t get, but it’s not that far from one end of the platform to the other).

If you’re driving or getting a taxi/Lyft, parking lot F is the key thing to know. Colonial park is a big one, and it’s a fair way from other parking lots. So long as you know that, there’s your warm up. But if timing is tight, as it was for one of our number, thanks to Uber delays, you’ll want the near parking area.

The welcome was warm, with Rory, the Irish event director, a serial event-starter and hugely experienced volunteer (this is an understatement). The weather was warm but not too hot – the sort of humidity that British people call “muggy” when they mean “keeping us nicely warm”, rather than what I’ve seen in DC recently, which was “hot”.

The bridge, parkrun flag to the foreground. Finish is to the right.
The bridge – start on the far side. Finish towards the camera, turning left (right in the photo).

The course is as easy as you could hope for; a straightforward 2.5k out and back, albeit you start on the far side of a bridge, then cross it at the end and turn immediately left for the finish. Normally there would be a turn-around marshal, but even without one, knowing that “if you hit a road, you’ve gone too far – turn around by going round (not in front of!) the gate before the road” it is so simple even I could follow it on my own.

Fast, flat, scenic. It’s a lovely run! There is even water on both sides, with a river and a canal, but I didn’t spot that on my right. Kate jibed me for it, but admitted she hadn’t spotted the second set till the 3rd time she ran here.

The finish line
The finish line.

Post run, coffee and breakfast is at a cafe up the road; it’s easy to find if you get a lift, check the address or follow someone. I chose the former, and the food was good, chat flowed and the prices were reasonable. You don’t even have to have an enormous breakfast, so fear not.

Me, finishing D&R parkrun
Me, finishing.

Philadelphia, Rodin museum and the Museum of Art

The Rodin museum has plenty of sculptures outside, so if you don’t fancy paying to go in, you can see several things. Most were cast in bronze after Rodin’s death, which was always the plan, and there are a few (but a limited number) of each, so you may see a Thinker elsewhere. To go in, pay what you want – suggested donation $10, no criticism offered if you pay less.

The Museum of Art is a huge draw in the city. On a Wednesday evening, 5-8:45 (and first Sunday of the month, 10am-5pm), you can pay what you want in order to enter; otherwise it is $20 for two days’ entry. There’s a lot to see, and lots of different types of art, from paintings through furniture, homewares and armour, so spreading your visit out makes sense. I felt a little overwhelmed from the sheer variety of forms, let alone the amount of stuff, but did wander through most of the museum. It’s a bit of a maze in places – it is worth picking up a map!

Meanwhile, outside.

View of Philadelphia from the Museum of Art
View of Philadelphia from the Museum of Art.
Sculpture of the Free Library's founder
Sculpture of the Free Library’s founder.

On Thursday evening I took myself off to the theatre. I couldn’t find a play, but a musical at the Walnut Street Theatre was a fair substitute. The lowest-priced tickets are $25 – buy them at the theatre to avoid high online surcharges. If the theatre isn’t full then the floor manager will invite people to move forwards. Otherwise those cheap seats are right at the back. It is a relatively small theatre but still, further forward is way better. It may not be Broadway, but the performance – and singing – was of an extremely high standard.

Outside views of Philadelphia, PA

I spent four days in the eminently walkable, artsy and sophisticated city of Philadelphia. It boasts great museums, albeit not free ones, and the Museum of Art has the ‘Rocky Steps’ (that is, the steps up which Rocky ran in the film, like).

Day 1; walking from the station to Apple Hostels, then to the waterfront and finding happy hour in the Olde Bar.

Philadelphia is also the ‘home’ of independence, hosting the building in which both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed. Visiting Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell is free. The former needs you to collect a timed ticket from the Independence Visitor Centre (which is a shortish walk away, but not right next door). On day 2, we visited both of those places.

Day 3. Love Park, sculptures and statues.

Day 4. Docks, museums and Boathouse Row.

Fletcher’s Cove parkrun, DC, USA

Fletcher's Cove parkrun route
Fletcher’s Cove parkrun route – straightforward out and back.

I was promised a fast and flat course at Fletcher’s Cove (by people who ran at Kensington last weekend), and was not disappointed. Other than the 180 degree turn around, there’s little to impede a quicker run here. That said, the towpath isn’t that wide, and training groups use it, as do cyclists, so it would certainly be possible to get momentarily stuck. It worked for me.

Potomac river, seen from a bridge
Potomac river, seen from a bridge.

I ran to the start from Falls Church, a straightforward 5 miles with some hills to keep me working. The end of that run took me over a bridge, with a great view of the Potomac, and then along the path, dovetailing with the ‘back’ section of the out and back parkrun course.

Riverside path; the whole run is on this
Riverside path; the whole run is on this.

As you can see from the picture, it’s not a tarmacced course, but it’s pretty hard-packed.

Canoes at Fletcher's Cove boathouse
Canoes at Fletcher’s Cove boathouse.

The meeting point is near Fletcher’s Cove boathouse, with runners mostly congregating near the car park and on the bridge. For the briefing, they move you off the path, down some steps, nearer the canoes above, which is smart – it keeps us all out of the way of other path users till we actually need it. Event director Andreas was chatty and friendly, happily talking about how he found parkrun, and was intrigued because it fit with the social network growth in which he had a professional interest.

Fletcher's Cove sign
Fletcher’s Cove sign – right near the start.

There are buses to near the start, Google told me, not that I took them; if you want to use the metro, then Rosslyn is a nice 5km jog away. I ran back that way, post-social at the ‘Black Coffee’ shop a short walk away from the start/finish area. It’s a great spot, and the (gluten-free) brownie I had was a cut above.

Finish line, parkrun
Finish line, parkrun.

As for the run, it was organised like clockwork, fast at the very front, and people seemed to happily find a place to spread out along what otherwise would be a congested footpath. I had a decent run, and it was a coolish day, though the DC mugginess was still in full effect to make it a sweaty experience, even in mid September. At the finish, those  runners who wanted to stand around and chat did so on the bridge and around the finish area, which is nicely organised so that everyone else can still use the trail.

Start/finish section of the path
Start/finish section of the trail.

I had the bonus of meeting Mark Broomfield, a US-based ambassador for the Comrades ultra-marathon, who entertained us all over coffee: “Ok, ok, last story” was his catchphrase, and we kept persuading him (or he persuaded us, I forget) to let him make it the penultimate, every time.

View from the bridge into Rosslyn
View from the bridge into Rosslyn.

As the sun appeared, it was a still more sweaty run into Rosslyn, though I had the benefit of bumping into Nick Young, event director at Roosevelt Island parkrun, just as I got near the metro station, so ended my morning as I had begun it – talking about runners and running. It’s a great parkrun community in DC, spread across the city thanks to their having several runs for you to try. Highly recommended, but do try and stay for at least a couple of Saturdays so as to experience different runs and groups.

Me, on the run - it was hot, spot the sweat!
Me, on the run – it was hot, spot the sweat!

Cascade Falls and Barney’s Wall, Pembroke, USA

For our final day in Virginia, we aimed lower, with the prospect of a 6-mile round trip, taking in a waterfall and whatever Barney’s Wall is sounding ideal. In the end, it was a 7-mile walk, and we couldn’t park at Cascade Falls themselves, as all such locations had been officially closed in case of flash flooding from Hurricane Florence. With the hurricane not due in to this area till the day after, though, parking on the road ahead of the (closed) car park wasn’t a great risk, and we wandered into the park.

After I had taken pictures of more bits of Woods Hole hostel, mind; including the goats, of whom we had heard, but previously seen no evidence.

Goats, Woods Hole hostel
Goats, Woods Hole hostel.
View from Woods Hole hostel
View from Woods Hole hostel.
Logbook, Woods Hole hostel
Logbook, Woods Hole hostel.
Logbook cover, Woods Hole hostel
Logbook cover, Woods Hole hostel.

Cascade Falls is only a couple of miles from the car park, and worth the walk, though in places the ascent is pretty steep (on a decent path).

Cascade Falls
Cascade Falls, Pembroke, USA.

From there, head upwards and right, onto the Conservancy trail, and there’s more to explore. Much more, in fact, though we just headed the mile and a half to Barney’s Wall – there is a sign not far from the falls.

Funky red and white mushroom

View from Barney's Wall
View from Barney’s Wall.

Barney’s Wall gives a great view out over a valley. The wall itself is a great rock cliff off to the right. But you’ll have to trust me that it’s there, because I took no photos.

View from Barney's Wall
View from Barney’s Wall – a clear day!

Just look at it. A clear, sunny day. Not noticeably hotter than the previous two, just much better for looking out over the world.

Me, standing on the rock
I did look at the view. Then at the camera.

By evening, we were in Roanoke. The city seems quaint enough. Our taxi driver from a few nights before reckoned they got few tourists, but the place has a huge theatre, plenty of places to eat and drink, and a nice atmosphere about it.

Roanoke, sculpture
Roanoke, sculpture.

Plus we stumbled upon Oriental House, 125 Campbell Avenue SE, which was a total bonus. The owner, Peter, 74, was happy to promise us good food, which had me totally sold. And he delivered on it. If he promises his Pad Thai is really good, just believe him.

Roanoke city centre
Roanoke city centre.

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