Thursday 23 April 2015

Off to the East Coast: Kingston and Montreal

And so, since there was no way to top Disneyland, we got on a plane and left the West Coast behind, headed for the second leg of the trip - the East Coast.

Removing a whole lot of powder from the car in Montreal
Stay tuned for - cold weather in Montreal and Quebec City, wintery chaos on Prince Edward Island and in Halifax, snow banks as tall as me in Boston and slush in New York. Yes, all the snow that they didn't have in California, they were apparently storing for us out East. When we picked up our rental car at Toronto Airport, there was a snow scraper included. We soon appreciated that little piece of thoughtfulness!

We started our East Coast adventure with a short and peaceful interlude in a little town called Kingston. Why Kingston? I hear you ask. Well, one fantastic reason. My friend, Meghan. She moved to Australia for 5 all-too-short years and taught at my school so when we knew we were headed over I knew we had to spend some time with her. I got to visit her school and spend a morning with her class. We had dinner with her mum and and her brother, who I'd heard about but obviously never met. Another old friend of mine, this one from my exchange year in Ontario who now lives in Ottawa, drove down to Kingston with his wife and we had dinner together which was fabulous.

Kingston had a winter festival happening while we were there, so we rugged up and headed downtown. We did some outdoor ice-skating and waited for a while for some maple candy which never eventuated (made by pouring hot maple syrup onto snow - they had special clean snow in buckets, they didn't just use the random stuff from the ground - but they didn't get the temperatures right or something). We went in a snow maze which Will beat me through (not that I'm competitive, I'm really blowing my mild-mannered cover here.... it wasn't a very good cover anyway).

After that much needed break from running around madly from place to place, we embarked on our next stage of the trip. Off to Montreal!

I really like Montreal. My dad lived there for a while and my family visited and I thought it was a lovely city. I discovered on this trip that I could never never never live there. I wouldn't make it through one winter! But, we only had a certain amount of time there, and we weren't going to spend that time indoors, so I put on all my clothes, all of them, and we headed out into the cold. I had the bright idea that we should do a city walking tour I'd found online. Walking. Outside. In the cold. Silly idea. We did find some cool things though.


Not just regular poutine,
fancy poutine!
This is something like Canada's national food. When you go to McDonald's in Canada, you can have your fries 'poutined'. It's fries, with gravy and cheese curds. I've never been a huge fan but when in Rome... so we found a restaurant called La Banquise that only serves different types of poutine. It's something of a Montreal institution apparently, open 24 hours so you can go and stave off your hangover with lots of fries and cheese and gravy. I had poutine with guacamole, tomatoes and sour cream, Will had some other dish designed to induce a heart attack, I think it had cut up hot dog on it. Where's the cultural experience where you eat a lot of salad and vegetables? I think I need to go there next.

Notre Dame Basilica of Montreal

Montreal is in the French part of Canada, which means the Catholic part of Canada, which means pretty, pretty churches. The Notre Dame Basilica is absolutely knock-out. Neo-Gothic so all very dramatic. Plus, I don't think there's a surface in there that isn't decorated. Walls, windows, columns, floor, ceiling, it's all covered. And the decorators were of the 'I'm not sure it's finished, whack a bit more gold on it' school of design. We were there when a guided tour in
English was starting so we hung around for that which was a good idea because the tour guide was an impossibly cheerful, well-informed women with a very cute French accent who was simply delightful to listen to. Apparently the architect was Protestant (quel horreur!) but converted to Catholicism on his death bed just so he could be buried in 'his' church. I personally am planning on painting all my ceilings blue with little gold stars when I get home. I'm sure it will work just as well in my house as in the vaulted ceilings of a basilica.

After that we wandered the streets for a bit freezing various bits off (I had to sew my own fingers back on at least three times) taking photos of random attractive buildings until it seemed like we had legitimately touristed for long enough, at which point we went home and huddled in front of the heating vents until we thawed out. I still really like Montreal, but I think I'll stick to going in summer from now on.

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