Across Canada – Toronto, ON to Montreal, QC
Stocking up on food and beer as we left Toronto, Jim and I headed North towards Algonquin Provincial Park. This was the first time where I had a road trip buddy and it made the drive not only go quicker – but was good fun. With the beats pumping (Albert has a surprisingly good sound system for a family people carrier!) we got to the park in no time. We had stopped off at a Tim Hortons on the way there so I could introduce Jim to my make-it-up-as-you-go-along way of doing things. We were nearly at the park at this point so we did some last minute research into where to go and accommodation options.
We arrived after dark but the gate to the park had a 24 hour area where we could get all the information about the park we needed. Arriving at our chosen (but of course not booked!) campsite we found a sign saying we could pick a spot and settle up in the morning. Jim commented on how well the park was set up for visitors – without being intrusive, which reflects my experiences of Canadian parks so far. When it comes to the outdoors – Canadians really know how to do it!
We managed a couple of good day hikes in the park with plenty of time to relax. There really is nothing like a well earned swim in a picturesque lake. Our next stop was Ottawa to see an old friend from Cardiff. Pete has been out here for a few years now and I stayed with him briefly on my last trip to Ottawa in 2010. He now lives with two other guys from Cardiff and it was great to hit the town with the Brits and find out about their experiences of life in Canada. Much of the sight seeing in Ottawa was beer related and we did the city proud. Pete took us for a drive and then hiking in Gatnau Provincial Park (a highlight) and generally made sure we enjoyed our stay. In return I broke his coffee pot… sorry about that one!
Following Ottawa was a trip to Mont-Tremblant Park in Québec. Québec starts as soon as you cross the river in downtown Ottawa but it really is a completely different country inside Canada. This came as a bit of a shock during my last visit and takes some getting used to. Jim has some French experience after living in France for a year (mine is atrocious) so it was good fun trying to communicate in French together – though I let Jim do the majority of the talking!
Our time in the park was again a nice mix of hiking and relaxing, though we did notice that this time the park seemed a little more confusing to navigate – not helped by the language barrier. Jim drove a little in the parks where the roads are quieter which was both fun and a nice break for me!
Two people living out of the van turned out to work surprisingly well. The additional gear did make storage a little cramped at times but much less so than I had feared. I had intentionally made the van big enough to sleep two and it was not only big enough, but comfortable. Nice one me! Mechanically the van has been sound – until Jim arrived that is and the instrument panel decided to stop working for a week… but is now fine. Fingers crossed.
After sharing with Jim fond memories of my short stay in Montreal in 2010 we agreed to spend his last four nights in the city. We booked a hotel right next to downtown so we could be close to everything and have a big blowout. Which we did. Returning back to the hotel at around 6am one night (after getting our now favourite smoked meat poutine from a 24 hour poutine resturant) we decided it would be fun to go to watch a Canadian football (think American football) game the next day. The stadium is right in the heart of the city with some great views – unfortunately we didn’t really know what was going on for most of the game but it was great to soak up the atmosphere and watch the cheerleaders! A similar pattern continued for the remainder of our time together in Montréal.
Summer really is a fantastic time to visit Montréal – with lots going on and a very continental feel (Al fresco dining!) it is a buzzing, beautiful city. We saw some sights, ate some delicious food and sampled as much of the night life as possible! A great way to end Jim’s visit. It has been great having him here – a really easy going guy and we seemed to want to do the same things, so the two weeks he was here was non stop fun. I’ll miss you man.
Returning to Montréal, along with visiting the Rockies were the two major things I was looking forward to when I first decided to come to Canada. So in the back of my mind I had been considering spending more than just a quick visit in the city. I had discussed with both Richard and Jim the possibility of pausing my trip and spending part of the summer there. As soon as we arrived my mind was made up – once Jim had left I would start looking for a temporary place to live for a month or two.
On Jim’s last night we were playing pool when we got chatting to a couple called Camille and Harry who challenged us (and lost… badly!) to a game. We kicked it off and spent most of the night together. Randomly Camille mentioned that she was looking for a fourth housemate in her apartment… and the next day I moved in! This was a little surreal for all parties to begin with but they are great guys and the apartment is in a ideal central location. I am very excited about the Montréal chapter of my trip!
Tomorrow my visa expires marking one year since I arrived in Canada. Trying to use words to describe my time here so far would not even scratch the surface of what I want to express. I have met so many wonderful people, seen so many beautiful sights and done so many mind blowing things that I can not help feeling that it has changed me for good.
It should come as no surprise then that I have applied to extend my stay. As normal there is no ‘plan’ but I will continue my trip across Canada after my time in Montréal. I miss a lot of people from home (you know who you are!) and I look forward to seeing you again… whenever that may be. The thought of being back in the UK before Christmas really appeals to me, but if you have been keeping an eye on this blog you know I like to just see what happens. So let’s see what happens.