TRANS CANADA HIGHWAY
OHHHHH CAAANADAAAAA! We finally made this trip international with our first Canadian National Park, Fundy.
Fundy National Park is located on the eastern mainland of New Brunswick and looks across the Bay of Fundy at Newfoundland. Due to a weird geologic quark, the Bay of Fundy experiences some of the most extreme tidal changes in the world in the town of Alma (about 50 ft from high tide to low tide.)
Compared to some of the parks we had been to in the US, the amenities were wonderful and the cost was cheap, much to our surprise (yay free hot showers!) While we were here, we enjoyed the dramatic coastal views and forested cliff side hikes that reminded us a lot of California. One of our 'highlights' was the kitchen party held at the historic home of Molly Kool. I saw a sign outside the park's visitor center with an advertisement for this said kitchen party, which showed fiddle players and dancing, and included a caption of “enjoy a night of traditional songs and stories.” This led me to believe it was going to be a live music performance of Canadian folk music and maybe some history. Boy was I wrong. Apparently, a 'kitchen party' is code in the great white north for an awkwardly delivered play in a room that is too small to excuse yourself from. Two hours later, the only thing getting us through was a performance from young Jack Black. This kid had some serious talent on the guitar and mandolin, and it was so fun to watch his facial expressions as he restrained his desire to rock. We were somewhat concerned about Canada's child labor laws/ career mobility due to the fact that the main adult 'actresses' used to be the child musicians years ago. We did end up laughing and smiling through the whole event, mostly due to the extreme social discomfort we were experiencing. Both Eric and I were volun-told to participate in the story telling of Molly Kool's significance as North America's first female sea captain. Basically, if you see an advertisement for a kitchen party, you have now been warned.
Another feature of the park that struck us as odd is how developed it was. Although the informational signs spoke of conservation and the evolution of the coastline throughout history, on the other side of the road was an 18 hole golf course and large hotel within the park boundary. Alma was a quaint fishing town that celebrated the changing tides. We spent a morning watching the high tide lap against the colorful fishing rigs, and the same evening walking out along the muddy sea floor looking back at those same stranded boats. This park made us very excited to see what else Canada had to offer.
After Fundy, we started west along the Trans- Canada Highway. Our main stops on the way towards Niagara Falls were Quebec, Montreall, Ottowa, and Toronto. We spent a day or less in each while camping in the glamorous Wal-Mart parking lots (thanks new trailer!)
Surprisingly, we found easy parking for the truck and trailer just outside of old Quebec where we spent most of our time walking around historic battlements, cobblestone streets, and battlegrounds that were now large city parks. Quebec was the first time we felt like we were in a different country, giving off vibes of walking European streets.
Montreal was hands-down our favorite. The Wal-Mart we stayed at was walking distance to the affordable metro, and we took our skateboards into the heart of the city for the day. Skating around was a blast. The coolest thing was how easy it was to hop on the metro throughout the day which allowed us to see Old Montreal, down town, Quartier Latin, Jean Talon Market, and the Le Plateau-Mont-Royal districts. I got to sample some delicious and expensive stinky cheese, and partake in some over the top pastries along the way. Although we were hoping for our first poutine experience here, no gluten free options were available. This lead us to a lunch of arepas in the Latin district which showcased Montreal's diversity. Our waitress could fluently speak Spanish, English, and French, and told us most people in the city could speak two to four languages. With it's close proximity to Burlington, VT, we both could see possible excursions to Montreal in the future.
With a long drive in between Montreal and Toronto, we only stopped in Ottawa for the morning. This city was much more interesting and enjoyable than either of us expected. As Canada's capitol, Ottawa has the center block on parliament hill as it's main attraction. This fanciful building was surrounded by lush gardens and a number of auxiliary structures supporting beautiful Gothic architecture. I, once again, was distracted by food and enjoyed the markets immensely. Leaving the city with unpasteurized stinky cheese and having had a beaver tail (fried flat dough covered in a topping,) I was a happy camper.
Our spirits were built up from our pleasant visit in Ottawa, and then Toronto quickly crushed them by giving us our most difficult experience finding a place to stay yet. Once we did find a lot to sleep in, our paranoia kept us restless throughout the night as we were staying right next to the homeless bus party. Once it was morning enough, we quickly gathered ourselves and left for the protection of the subway station parking lot. We had heard such great things about Toronto, and were expecting this city to be the most modern, or advanced, or 'user friendly' but our expectations were set a bit too high. The morning was spent walking the financial and historic districts. Unfortunately, these districts showcased a major and unresolved issue Toronto has (along with a lot of other major cities.) Some percentage of the homeless population within the city were clearly demonstrating substance abuse issues in very public and unhygienic ways. On the other side, the locals were clearly desensitized to this as evidenced by them stepping right over barely conscious human bodies lying in puddles of their own vomit. It took a while to get over this shocking visual, but once we entered the main downtown tourist area, things were looking a bit brighter. We enjoyed a huge indoor multi-level market, where I left with a healthy loaf of olive bread and Eric left with some free samples of wine in his belly.
Our journey to find gluten free poutine came to a satisfying conclusion as we arrived at Poutinie's House of Poutine. All I can say is mmmmmmmm. Though next time, we decided we should visit a pub before partaking in this over-indulgent drunk food staple.
With that in mind, we headed towards the distillery historic district in no way prepared to find another crappy, family oriented, shopping plaza. We were hoping for Alcoholic Disney World. Disappointingly sober, we decided to delve into the cities underground walkway / shopping mall; The Path. Navigation in this half lit labyrinth was accomplished by following sunlight upwards, and attempting to recognize street views we quickly passed earlier in the morning. There were many times we believed all hope was lost and we would surely perish alongside an inexplicably closed Starbucks. What seemed like hours later, we escaped the last-people-on-earth simulator by divine intervention, and reemerged to the surface world. With both highs and lows, our opinion on Toronto was pretty neutral. I don't know what else to say.
We left en route to Niagara Falls, where a whole new level of Tourist trap greeted us.
10/10 would say “EH?” again.
Song: Daybreak – Michael Haggins (for the sound of the metro doors opening)