Two Weeks in Canada: Day 14 – Walruses and Ghosts

This is the last full day of our Canadian odyssey. Same day as Carly Rae Jepsen dropped her latest album, so that’s keeping me company alongside the remnants of yesterday’s mammoth bag of popcorn. The hub is currently getting the bulk of the packing sorted as I write – so hopefully I’ll be able to finish in decent time and be able to help him.

Whilst we were too late in the season to get on a whale watching tour, that doesn’t mean that I have to leave behind any joy of seeing marine animals. About half an hour out of town by bus and a weird pedestrian path-less walk is the Aquarium of Quebec. To allow for mop-up time in the afternoon, we had already pre-booked our tickets for a 10am entry… so ended up with another McDonald’s breakfast as it was quick. This breakfast came with a free apple pie for an unknown reason and I am not going to quibble with that.

The Aquarium of Quebec feels almost a bit of a misnomer. Sure, there are two aquarium buildings filled with fish, but the draws are to be found in the outside and open-air exhibits. For now though, let’s focus on what is indoors as that’s pretty much the order I ended up seeing things.

In the larger of the buildings, you have a more regular type of aquarium. However, as this aquarium was more set up originally set up as research into indigenous species, most of the fish you find in the larger building are Canadian and so you’ll find fewer tropical species. However, let’s not forget that Canada is the second largest country in the world. So for each tank with halibut (who are so awkward looking, bless them) and trout, you will also find octopus and the most darling hermit crab I ever did see.

The other building is more spread around two themes and the inevitable touch tank of rays (although these were cow-nosed rays, aka the cutest of all rays). The first is the best collection of jellyfish, underscored by a Sigur Ros track. There are a lot of jellies here and the clever use of mirrors make these weird creatures go on for ever. Moon jellyfish, sea nettles, bay nettles and a bunch of other species were just happily undulating away as the coloured lights changed.

Next door was a number of different seahorse displays as well as sea dragons and the close-related pipefish. With both this and the jellyfish, it was nice these groups of animals getting their own dedicated areas as, all too often, they kinda get lost in the shuffle of other aquarium animals. Here, they are allowed to be the stars.

So by the time we were done with the fish, it was time for the seal feeding and demonstration. This aquarium has both harbour and harp seals sharing an enclosure, which they seem fine with as they go about swimming and playing with each other. The harbour seals were especially cute as they were getting their medical checks and being rewarded with fish straight from the bucket.

After this demonstration, we noticed that people had begun to gather at the polar bears. Well, where the polar bears in Toronto were all resting – these two were far from sleeping. We were at the enclosure for a long time, running back and forth as they swam and playfought. Actually seeing them like this was awe-inspiring. These are stunning creatures, but as they were rearing at each other during the fights, there is this innate part of you that is triggered about how dangerous they are and to be thankful for concrete and glass.

Over our shoulder I then heard another sound – one of walruses grunting. Yes, in all the time we’d been with the polar bears, the keepers were now doing feeds and checks on the walruses (a father and his twins) – albeit not publicised and not in the wider display tank. Honestly I could just spend hours watching walrus swim and being their tusky selves, but it was so odd seeing them ‘walk’ rather than swim.

We swung by the arctic fox exhibit before leaving – weird co-incidence that this fox was born in Hong Kong’s Ocean Park, so I will have met his relatives. The timing of the exit could not have been more perfect, the aquarium was pretty empty during our visit and was about to be filled with two school buses worth of kids on a school trip. Bullet dodged.

Lunch was, what I assume as of writing this, my last plate of poutine that I will have in Canada and last plate for a long time. Back in town, we stopped into a branch of Frite Alors! to try one of their glammed up poutines. My husband went for one with bacon, cheese and sour cream and the bit I tried was very delicious. As for me, I was able to try out the General Tao poutine and… the chicken and sauce on this make the whole plate a winner. Damn I am going to miss poutine.

Since it was a perfectly clear day – and I am going to thank the weather Gods once again for giving us amazing weather on this trip – we went up the Observatoire de la Capitale to get that bird’s-eye view you just end up craving when in a city for long enough.

From up high, you really do see just how small an area is occupied by the walled old city and how it’s not to dissimilar in size to the citadel. This is also the only chance to get a decent view of the shape of the citadel itself, unless you have a helicopter I guess. The observation deck was clearly an after thought and more of a converted top floor, but hey with all the floor to ceiling windows, you get brilliant views in all of the cardinal directions.

By now we were heading towards an hour before sunset, so we finally got around to taking a big walk around the Plains of Abraham and the wider Battlefield Park. It was here that a half hour battle ended a war between the British and French due to the capture of the city of Quebec. An extremely interesting bit of history amongst everything else we have learned this trip.

As well as being a site of historic importance, this is also a really beautiful park to walk through. Even now as the trees are beginning to thin out a bit, this was a lovely way to spend an hour. Some of the views you can get here across the St Lawrence River are beautiful as long as you are okay with a cargo seaport just being off to the side. But hey, without that, it’s easy to forget that you are in an urban park because it sure is peaceful there.

Dinner was some sandwiches that we had purchased earlier from Metro. Neither of us really wanted a full meal and, hey, these Italian sub sandwiches were pretty good even though they were eventually eaten 3 hours after being bought and having a merry tour of the park. We took this chance to refuel before our final item of the day.

This isn’t something I have done before, but we went on a ghost tour. I know some of these put in a jump scare, which is why I haven’t done them – but this thankfully didn’t have any of that. Instead, a dapper looking guy took us around the lower city and told us stories of tragedy, executions and mass graves. Not a lot of ghosts, but I liked it more that way. Made for a really nice end to these few days.

So that’s pretty much it. Tomorrow we fly out in the evening, so we have a bit of a morning in Quebec City before about 20 hours of travelling get under way. Hopefully we’ll get the final thing done on the to do list and be able to say a proper goodbye to this city and then the country.

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