A Travellerspoint blog

Canada

A Completely Different Land

Canada - Montreal

all seasons in one day 20 °C
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Having spent five days in English speaking Ontario, we were now headed for our final destination, the capital of the French speaking Quebec - Montreal.

I was interested to see just how different it would be. For all, this is still the same country. However upon arrival it became clear the answer was 'very'. Although still having maple leaves everywhere, Montreal felt much more modern, and there was a big drop in the amount of English available. Whilst people seemed to understand it and we were able to get buy, this felt very different, as well as there being a marked increase in the amount of regional flags.

In the run up to the holiday the weather looked abysmal, and so we were braced for some atrocious weather. Up to this point we had been very lucky, however as we emerged from the metro station to walk around the corner to our hotel, the heavens had opened and it was pouring down. Worse still, this particular point was a wind tunnel and we spent the few minutes in the open getting drenched. Worse still, as we checked in the rain stopped, and we realised a short wait could have kept us dry....

Never mind, it had now stopped, and to make the most of what was now a sunny warm day we quickly left to take a walk up Mont Royal, for views over the city which we would explore fully the next day. Walking up some steep slopes, we eventually made it to the entry of the park, where more steep slopes lay before us.

The view from Mont Royal

The view from Mont Royal

Eventually however, we reached the top, and although we weren't sure exactly what we were looking at, the view from the hill over the city was still nice. We then headed back down and towards food and bed.

The following morning we made the most of our last lay in, before leaving the bags at the hotel to explore the city. Beginning with Canada Place, with views over the neighbouring tower blocks and cathedral, we entered a nearby building and made our way into the Underground City - a network of interconnecting tunnels that link many of the buildings together without needing to access the open air - ideal in the freezing Canadian winter.

Hotel de Ville

Hotel de Ville

Eventually emerging at the Palace of Congress, we were by now in the heart of Old Montreal, and after walking through Place d'Armes we saw the Notre Dame Cathedral and bought souvenirs in some of the shops before we reached the heart of the Old City.

The Old City

The Old City

Carrying on down, we made it to the promenade on the St. Lawrence River, walking along the jetties before making our way to the Metro Station.

1976 Olympic Park

1976 Olympic Park

Our next sight was the Olympic Park, where the 1976 Olympic Games were held. Unfortunately the park hasn't had much love since then and a lot of the concrete has started to crumble. Nevertheless it was an interesting sight.

The Biosphere

The Biosphere

We then headed back towards the centre, and back out to the islands in the middle of the city. Getting off at the metro station, we then headed towards the Biosphere before walking around the island and heading back to the city.

And this is pretty much where the holiday ends. After grabbing our bags we made our way to the airport in plenty of time for our six hour overnight flight back home.

Canada was a nice place to visit, and it was particularly interesting to see both the English and French sides. Of the two major cities, I think I preferred Montreal but they were both nice, as was everything else we saw. Unlike America the people are very courteous and friendly, however it lacks the culture of Europe and Asia. Nevertheless it was worth the travel to see it all.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 12:09 Archived in Canada Tagged rain history montreal quebec city island sun hill olympic Comments (0)

The Canadian Capital

Canada - Ottawa

overcast 18 °C
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When planning this trip I felt it would be interesting not only to visit Toronto and Niagara Falls, but the capital - Ottawa, and the French speaking area of Quebec, and therefore make a whole trip out of the holiday.

After having a final breakfast with Halina, we said our goodbyes, and boarded a five hour bus crossing southern Ontario towards Ottawa, eventually arriving in the city by mid afternoon. After checking in to our huge room, we then headed out for a short walk to the heart of the city.

What had struck us most in Canada was just how shabby much of it is, and Ottawa was no exception. Even though we were just a five minute walk from Parliament, the whole area was very shabby, with signs falling off, paintwork needing maintenance, and broken pacing slabs everywhere. And yet, as we walked past the city hall and entered the very heart of the city it was very well maintained.

Parliament

Parliament

The city centre was rather pretty, and Parliament Hill's Gothic architecture was a welcome sight against the bland and typical North American architecture of the suburbs. Walking past a protest against FPTP, we headed towards the back of the complex for views over the Ottawa river that separates French speaking Quebec from English speaking Ontario.

Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill

It is for this reason that Ottawa was made capital - being neither Toronto, nor Montreal, yet between the two and therefore a good compromise for a united country. Although with the Parliament buildings overlooking Quebec, it's a good job their independence never happened!

Château Laurier

Château Laurier

After walking past some beautiful buildings and the Rideau Canal, we made our way to the Alexandra Bridge to cross into Quebec. What would we find on the other side? Would people be speaking in French? Well... yes... in fact everyone we heard was a French speaker, and as we headed back from what appeared to be the same city, we followed some French speaking ladies and were intrigued to find out if they would revert to English by the time they reached Ontario.

French before English was one of the few differences

French before English was one of the few differences

Unfortunately our illusions were shattered as they continued their conversation in French as we dispersed back towards our hotel for the night.

Posted by kmmk17 11:14 Archived in Canada Tagged city canada capital parliament Comments (0)

Day Trip to Niagara

Canada - Niagara Falls

sunny 22 °C
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My first visit to Niagara Falls was back in the cold of November 2013, being stuck on the American side. Whilst you can walk between the falls and get right up close next to them, the way the falls are laid out means you don't really get to see them very well. I had at that point planned to quickly cross the border, but being short on time I decided this would have to be for some point in the future.

After then thinking more about visiting Canada itself, I decided it would be nice to see more of the country anyway, and with the opportunity at hand, booked the trip, and made an excursion to the better side of Niagara Falls part of it.

After a day of exploring Toronto with Halina, today Fara and I headed by ourselves to the waterfalls, and after a 2 hour coach trip arrived at the northern end of the border town. Being unsuccessful in navigating the buses, we walked along the Niagara gorge with views of the USA, before finally approaching the waterfall itself. And it soon became clear just how much more impressive it is to see it from this side.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

From the Canadian side, the whole falls structure becomes like an auditorium, and with it being a beautiful sunny day we enjoyed the light spray emerging from the crashing water, as we walked down towards the edge of the waterfalls themselves.

Overlooking the border bridge and the American Falls

Overlooking the border bridge and the American Falls

Other than the falls themselves, there wasn't an awful lot to see and do in the town - we had decided against crossing to the American side anyway, and didn't see a massive benefit of going on the boats, and so instead headed to grab some food, avoiding the much ruder Americans that had crossed the border, as opposed to the Canadians who were incredibly friendly.

And that's pretty much where today's story ends. We headed back to Toronto before our onward travel to Ottawa the following day.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 10:32 Archived in Canada Tagged waterfall border wet niagara Comments (0)

Maple Leaf Overload

Canada - Toronto

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After the trip to South America, and the brief weekend away in Germany, the next holiday for 2017 was a 6 day trip to Canada with Fara.

Although Canada has never been top of my list, it has been somewhere I planned to eventually visit, especially after having been just metres away at Niagara Falls in 2013. And with my friend Halina from my Erasmus time now living in Toronto, this was the perfect opportunity.

Getting a bargain deal on flights, we flew out the Friday before the May bank holiday to Toronto from Gatwick. Getting on the flight we were already overwhelmed with Maple Leaves literally everywhere we could imagine - the plane wings, the brochures, the plastic cups. I was sick of the sight of it before we'd even reached land and started flying over Newfoundland.

Having taken off at noon for the 8 hour flight, coming in to land it was now 3pm - the longest three hours of my life. Meeting us at the airport was Halina, who then took us via bus and metro to her home in the city that she was letting us stay in whilst she crashed with her boyfriend.

Halina's neighbourhood

Halina's neighbourhood

By this point it was already 5pm, and having travelled all day it now felt like 10pm, and thus Fara and I felt way to tired to do anything major today. We therefore went for a short walk around the neighbouring area, in order to get food, with Halina and her boyfriend joining us. Unfortunately not being in the mood for anything more exciting on a Friday evening!

And this is where jet lag became a problem....heading eastwards I don't get too affected, but travelling westwards is where I encounter issues. There are simply too many hours in the day! I therefore easily headed to sleep at 8pm, but was well awake by 5am!

Having been awake for around 5 hours, Halina and her boyfriend met us the following morning and we went for a Canadian breakfast at a local cafe.

The closest I was getting to a Canadian bear this holiday...

The closest I was getting to a Canadian bear this holiday...

We then walked through the city, arriving first at the city hall and Nathan Phillips Square, a modern complex compared with the Old City Hall next door.

Nathan Phillips Square

Nathan Phillips Square

After walking through the market buying souvenirs, we then headed over to the Distillery District - a gentrified former industrial area that now has many small artisan shops.

Distillery District

Distillery District

Originally having considered travelling over to the Toronto Islands, due to the bad weather in the city the previous few weeks they were flooded and therefore closed to tourists. We therefore stuck to Toronto, viewing the Islands from afar at the coastline on Lake Ontario.

After saying goodbye to Halina's boyfriend, we then headed to the CN tower - still the tallest structure in the Western Hemisphere, for views over the surrounding area. Unlike the Burj Khalifa, which took over the tower's height record, the views are impressive, being able to see a wide area as well as the ground itself, via the glass floor. This was a scary sight but once reassured that the glass is stable is an interesting experience!

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Coming back down we headed to get some Poutine, before saying goodbye to Halina for now, and heading back to the house via the University. However having woken up early for a busy day, by now we were shattered. We had been invited to a party, but before 8pm we had both fallen asleep and ended up missing it. But at least fully rested for our day trip to Niagara Falls.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 09:45 Archived in Canada Tagged tower walking toronto city canada sightseeing exploring Comments (0)

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