Neither of us had been to Canada before so we decided since we were so close, we would spend a few weeks visiting some key cities. Sandra was also keen to catch up with an old friend, Shawn, in Toronto. Several months ago, with the need to use air miles/frequent flyer points before they expired, we booked a flight from Toronto to New Orleans. Part of our intentions is to do random and spontaneous things. This was one of them. There was no real logic to our decision to travel to New Orleans except we like music and food. Anyway, this is not about New Orleans, this post is all about what we did in Canada.
Knowing that we had 16 nights in Canada, we decided to split them pretty evenly between Montreal, Quebec City and Toronto. We took the overnight Greyhound bus from New York to Montreal, arriving at 0500h on a cold and bleak Thursday morning. It was our first real chance of testing our theory of taking carry-on luggage on the bus. It didn’t really work too well. The overhead trays were way too small, so we stored our backpacks under our feet. Compared to other bus and land transport companies, Greyhound appears to be somewhat in the dark ages with regard to ticket management. They happily allow you to book online, but you have to print out your individual tickets (single-sided) for collection prior to boarding the bus. Not very green and also not easy to do as digital nomads with no proper access to a printer. The fact that the bus left New York City at 2045h and had to cross the international border meant that we were unceremoniously woken up at 0300h to step off the bus into the cold and enter the customs hall for Canadian officials to ask a number of inquisitive questions (while we were half-asleep), stamp our passports and allow us to return to the bus. Needless to say, we don’t plan to do too many overnight bus trips in the future, especially if they involve cross borders travel.
Our highlights in Montreal included:
- Visiting the Basilique Notre-Dame de Montreal.
- Continuing the theme of touring Olympic Stadiums, something I think should be a permanent feature. We went up the tower and had an official tour of the stadium which has been re-purposed for a variety of activities. It has been 40 years since the 1976 Montreal Olympics so there was a special exhibition at the Stadium. The Montreal Olympics were special for a number of friends and athletes participating in the track and field there and whom I know personally.
- Going to dinner at Beaver Hall – one of the participating restaurants in the Montreal Restaurant Month Festival.
- Eating world-famous bagels from the St Viateur Bagel Shop.
- Hiking up to Mont Royal Park for an amazing view of the city.
After five nights in Montreal, we travelled by Via Rail Canada to Quebec City. If we thought Montreal was quite French, Quebec was even more so.
Highlights in Quebec City included:
- A trip to the Montmorency Waterfalls, about 12km north of Quebec City. There are staircases that allow visitors to view the falls from several different perspectives, although being autumn, several were closed off for safety reasons.
- Walking around Old Quebec – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Getting a haircut at a very stylish barbershop called KRWN. The standard persona for the barbers were beards, tattoos on their necks and able to act as baristas for the coffee bar at the front of the shop. This craze seems to be getting more popular for no sooner had I had the haircut then I started to see these barbershops everywhere in Canada.
- Quiet birthday which included a date night dinner at Le Cercle with Sandra.
- Multiple runs around and through the Plains of Abraham – a large park famous for a battle that took place in 1759.
- Eating the famous Province of Québec dish called Poutine – it is made with French fries and cheese curds topped with a light brown gravy. Our first taste of it was at Joe Smoked Meats. It is great comfort food on chilly days.
Quebec City was cold (3° Celsius) and at times, the weather forecasters had threatened us with snow, but it never eventuated. On 20 November, we flew on to Toronto and if I thought Quebec City was cold, Toronto with its wind chill factor was even more so. For some of my runs, it got down to -3° Celsius.
Highlights in Toronto included:
- Meeting and running with Miguel BERNAL (a fellow Strava user who I had connected with in previous months).
- Visit the Niagara Falls (Canadian side only of course).
- Enjoying the Defending the Caveman show at the Revival Bar.
- Dining in several well-known eateries in Little Italy where we were staying including but not limited to The Captain’s Boil and Trattoria Tavernilli.
- Catching up with Sandra’s friend Shawn, checking out St Laurence Market and the Distillery District.
- Visiting the Bata Shoe Museum and the Royal Ontario Museum, the latter hosting the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition.
One final comment: We found that there was a preference for cash over a credit card in many places in Canada (particularly cafes and restaurants), which meant we had to withdraw more cash than we had estimated before our trip. Just something to be aware of.
It had been a busy few weeks, but we certainly looked forward to a break from the cold weather, knowing that after Toronto we were headed down to the somewhat warmer weather of New Orleans.
Photo by Juliana Loh on Unsplash