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Tegan & Ingrid's world adventure

That's what I'm talkin' aboot ey

CANADA | Wednesday, 28 December 2011 | Views [1428]

Beaver

Beaver

After a brief overnight stop in New York City we took an early morning train to Montreal. The ride took 11 hours so we were grateful for a clean & comfortable, albeit full, train. We passed our day watching the scenery pass us by. It’s actually a really pretty train trip and I could imagine that it would be especially so in mid-Autumn when all the leaves have changed colour. We were, unfortunately, a couple of weeks too late in the season to see it.

We decided to once again try our hand at Couchsurfing in Montreal and a lovely couple called Phil & Mel agreed to put us up for a few nights.  Now before I get into our time in Montreal I will just quickly explain one thing. Originally we had planned a leisurely three week trip in Eastern Canada, we were going to start in Toronto and travel across all the way over to Halifax before heading south to New York, however that all changed when we received the invitation to a wedding for a friend of ours in India. So we had to alter our plans and now only had 10 days in Canada. Therefore we decided that instead of rushing around trying to see as much as possible we would limit our trip to just two cities. Firstly Montreal, a city we have never been to before & secondly Toronto where we could catch up with two different lots of friends we had there.

So, now that you have the background we can get back to talking about Montreal. We had a great intro to local Montreal when we had to meet our couchsurfing host, Phil, at his battle of the bands gig at a local bar. As our friends all know, we love live music, Tegan especially, so watching a few local bands battle it out (in a mix of French & English) was great fun. Montreal is a bi-lingual city. It sets in the French speaking part of Canada and day to day most locals will speak French but almost everyone also has a firm grasp on English and speaks it fluently. There are also some parts of Montreal where people speak English as there daily language and French comes second. It was really great to see how this all worked so smoothly in the city. We found when looking at menus sometimes that there was less accessibility to English than there was in some European cities we visited. We think this must be purely because French Canada is so proud to be French and being a part of a country where the majority do not speak French is pretty tough. So they are trying to hold on to their language as much as possible, therefore unlike touristy European cities, you don’t see English signs etc… everywhere you go. We actually found that really refreshing and intriguing as it wasn’t what we expected when we arrived in Canada.

Our first day in Montreal was spent wandering around the city. We walked through both new & old Montreal just looking in shops and walking past buildings and down lots of little streets and alleyways working our way through the city. It was a nice relaxing day as an introduction to the city and exactly what we needed considering we were still suffering a little jetlag and feeling quite tired.  That evening was a good chilled out night getting to know Phil a little better and chilling out with him on the couch at their house. Mel was unfortunately quite busy with work and other things at the time we were visiting so we didn’t get to spend a lot of time with her.

The second day we unfortunately had a bit of bad weather. Phil convinced us to start with that it wasn’t that far to walk to where we wanted to go so we thought, ok we’ll give it a go. We’d been walking about 20 minutes and really hadn’t got very far before it started to pour with rain. So we jumped on a bus to take us a little further down the road before we had to again walk through the rain to get to the Biodome. The whole trip took us almost an hour and a half, which was a little different to Phil’s estimated 25 minutes J.  But hey, we had fun along the way trying to stay as dry as possible. The Biodome in Montreal is a huge structure which has four different eco-systems inside it where you can see different plants and animals actually living in the eco-system. There is a Tropical South-American Forest where amongst other things they had Tucans, Monkeys and Macaws living, a Laurentian North American Forest with a Canadian Mountain Lynx, Beavers & river Otters, a Marine eco-system based on the bird life of the Gulf of St Lawrence and a Polar area which is divided into Antarctic & Arctic and has many different types of Penguins and little Puffins. We both decided that we love Puffins! We had been disappointed when we found out it wasn’t Puffin season in Iceland when we were there so we were glad to have the opportunity to see some in Montreal. They were so super cute and this one Puffin just loved humans. He kept coming up to the window when we would crouch down and he just wanted to get as close to us as possible. I just wanted to cuddle him. Too cute.

Phil decided to take us on a local micro-brewery crawl around Montreal for our final night. Montreal is actually quite famous for its micro-breweries and they definitely have no shortage of them. Phil basically had mapped out a little circuit for us to take so we would get the chance to visit some of his favourites. They had all kinds of beers available from your regular ales & lagers to beers with tastes of Apricot, Hibiscus or even cherry. They had a type of beer for every beer lover and we had a fabulous night tasting quite a few brews.

The following morning however it was off to Toronto. Yes, Tegan, the train was not going to wait for you to get over your hangover. So it was pull ourselves out of bed, pack up, have a yummy breakfast down the road, say our farewells and off we went. Lucky for us, once again travel industry contacts came in handy and we were travelling in business class. Nice big comfy seats with free wi-fi, drinks & meals included on our six hour trip to Toronto.

We arrived feeling a little less tired & hung-over and headed to our room we’d booked sharing with a couple of uni students in the North of town.  It was probably one of the comfiest beds we had slept in, since leaving home. Bargain at only $50 per night. We had four nights in Toronto and like I mentioned earlier we had two different friends we were catching up with here.

One was a couple from home, Lisa & Jake, who had been living in Toronto for the past few months on working holiday visas. So it was super great to see some familiar faces from back home for a few days. We hadn’t had that in a couple of months now so nice to hear some Aussie accents as well. J The other friend was a Canadian, Toronto local, Sarah. It was our second time meeting up with her since we met the first time we were in Toronto a couple of years back. Really great to have a local perspective as well. She took us out to her fave Sushi restaurant (so good to eat Sushi for the first time in 5 months!) the first night we met up.

Whilst we were in Toronto I unfortunately developed a huge blister on the bottom of my foot, believe it or not, from too much walking! And I am talking, MONSTER blister here. Not just huge but monstrous. It was really bloody painful so we were a little hindered in how much walking we were doing for our time in Toronto as I got the blister on only the second day. But with the subway system and a little walking on my toes here and there we made it around ok.

We got to see the CN tower (no way were we paying $50 to go up it though, weren’t quite that keen), visited the Christmas markets down in the Distillery district, shopped, saw Christmas windows and to help with putting my feet up we even went to the cinema a couple of times. Mind you, one of the movies was so boring I may have fallen asleep and now I can’t even remember what it was called. But hey, I got off my feet for a couple of hours which was the whole point. Ha ha.

On the second last day we got the opportunity to see Sarah’s final uni project performance. She has been studying Film & Television and a group of them had put together some live studio performances from local Canadian bands and we were lucky enough to be around for the last performance. So we got to watch two bands perform live in the studio at the University whilst they filmed it all for the eventual DVD they are putting together as their final project. After the show we went out for dinner with the rest of the crew from the project.

On our final day in Toronto we had an early evening flight so had most of the day free. We decided to have some separate girl & guy time which let’s face it, you really do need every so often, especially when you’re travelling and together 24/7. So we caught up with Lisa & Jake again and this time after brunch we all split up. Tegan & Jake headed to a brewery and Lisa & I got some shopping time in. A very relaxing couple of hours for everyone I think. But then it was over all too soon and it was already time to get back on a LONG plane trip, this time to India.

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