After just under 2,000 miles and 10 days of travel, David and I have returned to home, or at least to the summer home…It was a great trip, filled with much exciting sight-seeing, great food, incredible travel knitting and much, much more. Since it’s hard to encapsulate the trip in words, without boring you for days, David and I put together two lists, which nicely sum up our experience, The Top 10 List of Joy and the Bottom 5 List of Frustration. *As a side note, I got the idea of making a list of our favorite experiences from an article in Real Simple once and I’ve been trying to get David to participate for almost seven years with little or no success. Thanks to the blog, David was blindsided and participated without even realizing my tricks. Since it’s always better to end on a positive we’ll begin with…
The Bottom 5 List of Frustration
#1: At rock bottom was our hotel stay in Syracuse, NY (this will be the only non-Canadian part of the list, I promise). It started out awesome, the shower looked like a rainfall, the bed felt like a cloud. I thought, we will finally have air conditioning and I can sleep. And we did have air conditioning…as long as we kept moving. That’s right the air conditioner was/is set on a motion detector. So if you stop moving, i.e. go to sleep, the air conditioner will turn off, regardless of whether or not it has hit the right temperature. This ranks at the bottom of the list mostly because I cannot fathom who thought this was a good idea, and on top of that, how they convinced this hotel to pay extra to install these motion detectors. CRAZY…but it did get us a free breakfast.
#2: I got a cold. I first felt it coming on in Toronto, but it hit full force on our first night in Montreal. That first night was terrible, I’m pretty sure I went to the bathroom to refill my cup of water every hour. Thankfully, you can get Codine-cough syrup over the counter in Canada without a prescription so the next two nights were okay. Also thankfully, David had stowed some cough drops in our car from earlier in the year when he had a cold.
#3: Our hotel experience at the Hilton in Niagara Falls was equally ridiculous. After a lovely evening enjoying our view of the NY falls, we woke to discover not only were we out of hot water (I got a cold shower in), we were actually out of water entirely. We couldn’t flush the toliet. We had to brush our teeth using water leftover in our water bottles. David didn’t shower at all. Once again free breakfast and this time an angry e-mail to the Hilton people when we returned home. I mean seriously, the point of a hotel is to sleep and shower, I’m pretty sure we deserve some sort of refund.
#4: Quebec province, and more specifically Montreal rush hour, traffic. A six hour trip turned into an eight hour trip after hitting 4 spots of construction, rush hour, an accident during rush hour, and another bought of construction during rush hour.
#5: I feel really snobby saying this, but rounding out the list was the food we had on the road. We knew we were picky about fast food before the trip, but we now need to scratch off Arby’s, Quizno’s, and Diary Queen (the food, not the ice cream, the ice cream is always a winner). I just don’t understand why rest stops cannot include a Chipotle, Chick-fil-a or Sonic.
Now for the fun list, the Top 10 List of Joy. For this list, rather than describing everything, I’ve picked a few choice pictures from the over 2,000 pictures David took over the course of our trip.
Top Ten List of Joy
#10 The View from the Top of Mont Royal: It was an excruciating climb in the heat and David and I were sure we would come home sunburned and sore (neither of which actually happened), but once we got to the top it was all worth it.
the view from the chalet on mont-royal
#9 Free Stuff: As I mentioned above we managed to get two free breakfasts for our trials, but this was only the beginning. After bemoaning our bad hotel luck to the woman who checked us in, she sent up a free welcome snack and card. We also encountered a very nice bus driver in Montreal who not only gave us a free bus ride, but went out of his way to point us in the right direction when we got off the bus. Finally, when leaving Massachusetts we were given a free toll, I believe it was because the toll girl didn’t want to break our $20 bill.
the note accompanying our free westin goodies
#8 Notre Dame Cathedral: While it’s been a long time since I’ve visited the cathedral of the same name in Paris and I may have forgotten its true grandeur, the alter piece and nave of this cathedral may be just as magnificent. I just love the blue.
the inside of notre dame
#7 CN Tower: Who knew that Canada had the second tallest (I think) building in the world. The view was spectacular. It even has this crazy glass floor, which is both cool and disorienting.
david's feet 1,122 feet in the air looking through the cn tower glass floor
#7b Seeing Mike Birbigilia in concert: I don’t know if it was the wine over dinner or what, but I accidently had two things on our list numbered at 7 and didn’t realize it until right now, whoops. So here’s 7b, Montreal has this festival each July called the Just For Laughs festival. Since we have crappy internet access we somehow got the impression that we missed the week, but when we arrived to the hotel we learned it was in full swing. So we snagged tickets to see Mike B. It was a lot of fun, especially because we had second row seats. My making David arrive 45 minutes early paid off!
#6 Royal Ontario Museum: David was like a little kid in a candy shop checking out all the different dinosaur bones and reproductions. There was also this really thought-provoking traveling exhibit on political cartoons on the top floor that gave me an idea for a possible class project in the future…
david vs. dinosaur bones
#5 The Food: Our guidebooks and the various people we asked for tips did not lead us astray. Almost every meal was incredible. The pictures speak for themselves.
cakes from the red tea box
incredible salads at olive and gourmando, just to the right of us sat snl comedian Nasim Pedrad
#4 Biking through Montreal: Montreal has these awesome things call Bixi bikes. For only 5$ you can rent one for the whole day and as long as you never have a bike out for more than 30 minutes there’s no additional charge. It was a much more exciting and healthy way to see the city rather than taking the subway.
that's me from the perspective of david's bike
#3 Queen’s West: Designer toy store, yarn store, tea shop with AWESOME cakes, and crazy condom and weed stores all over the place…need I say more.
our toy, ed, from the magic pony toy store
i know none of you are going to believe me, but we really didn't go in the condom store
#2 St. Joseph’s Oratory: Built in the 20th century, this place was just incredible. There were two chapels, a candle room, and a spectacular view of the city of Montreal. What can I say, I loved every minute.
us in front of st. joseph's oratory
#1 The Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls: Niagara Falls felt like the Branson of Canada, but I loved it. The natural sights of the NY Falls and Canadian Falls were awesome. We took a great trip outside the city for a lovely meal at a winery. Opening our whole experience was the Maid of the Mist boat ride and it was breath-taking. It put us right in the middle of the action (really it was just on the edge of the action, but while you are on the boat it feels like you about to go into the falls).
in the action
trying to hide on the boat so we can go a second time
Sorry for such a long post, but it’s hard to sum up a ten day adventure. I hope you enjoyed seeing Canada through our eyes, or at least our pictures. Here are three of David’s favorite pictures, one from each city, at to end off the post.
the US falls at night all lit up
toronto's cn tower at night
montreal's notre dame at night, spooky eh?