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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Saint-Paulin parkrun start/finish.
Post-run view (but only if you head back towards Charette).
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.
En route to Saint-Paulin.
Saint-Paulin parkrun start/finish.
Post-run view (but only if you head back towards Charette).
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.
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.
You know you’re in Canada when, #4: train safety instructions say to unzip the ee snow curtain before opening the door.
Back garden with a fountain – Charette.
Back garden with a helicopter, Charette.
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.
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.
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.
Religious iconography abounds.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Leonard Cohen mural, golden hour for natural light.
Montreal street art by night.
Museum of Fine Art, Montreal – second entrance.
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.
Museum of Fine Arts (not Calder exhibition).
John Graham; wire frame.
Mobiles on display (and the odd stabile).
Smallest proof of ‘Man’.
Not Calder – shine a light to cast a shadow (this, proof it doesn’t work with flash).
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.
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 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.
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.
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 Thinker, outside the Rodin Museum.
The Burghers of Calais, outside the museum.
The Gates of Hell
The Gates of Hell, detail.
Garden, Rodin Museum – free to use, lovely spot for a picnic.
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!
Wellington, in a boot.
Farm Couple at Work, William Henry Johnson.
White Tara, Buddhist god of compassion. Eyes on the palm and forehead show that she sees and helps all living beings.
Fireflies over a stream, c. 1890.
Fire at Westminster.
L’Orniere (The Rut) – Joan Miro
Sunflowers, Van Gogh.
Cezanne, Still Life with a Dessert.
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.
View from the Mezzanine (after moving forward).
Walnut Street Theatre, playing Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn.
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.
30th Street Station, Philadelphia.
City hall – largest municipal building in the US.
Irish Memorial, commemorating the potato famine, which prompted so many to flee the country.
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.
Courtroom, Independence Hall – very British, even down to the dock, which looks like a jail (believed prejudicial to viewers’ opinion).
Senators’ table/chairs in the main hall.
The Liberty Bell. It’s a doozy of a crack.
Tomb of the unknown soldier, from the Civil War.
A Philadelphia street; Lorenzo & Sons pizza place’s art.
Penn’s Landing – from the other direction, you can see there are three walkers.
Elfreth’s Alley, a historic street dating to 1702.
Mural, house side
Day 3. Love Park, sculptures and statues.
Philadelphia sculpture, Thomas Paine Plaza.
Amor sculpture – not in Love Park (further up Parkway, near Logan Square).
Shakespeare Memorial; text “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players”.
Museum of Art behind Washington.
Day 4. Docks, museums and Boathouse Row.
Ships, Delaware River.
United States ship, old docks.
Museum of the American Revolution.
Second bank of the United States – best example of Greek Revival architecture, it says here.
Barry statue, by Independence Hall.
Statue and Free Library.
Rowers on the river.
Boathouse row. Ground floor of this beautiful building is for boats only.
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.
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.
As you can see from the picture, it’s not a tarmacced course, but it’s pretty hard-packed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Just look at it. A clear, sunny day. Not noticeably hotter than the previous two, just much better for looking out over the world.
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.
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.