Day 7: Strolling Through Old Town Quebec

Before going out for the day, I took advantage of the washer and dryer. With clean clothes, we left the loft to see Old Town. 

Right after climbing the hill, I found a store with cast iron home goods. We bought a huge door knocker, drawer handles, and a door plate. Since we bought about 25lbs of stuff, we walked back downhill to our apartment to drop off the goods, then went back up the hill. 

Today’s goal was to shop, take pictures, and walk around old town. We definitely did that. At dinner we had a unique experience because we got to put maple syrup on snow, then wrap it around a stick and eat it.

We wanted to finish our night at the Chateau Frontenac for a fancy drink. We sat and sipped for a couple hours, then made the trip back down the hill for the night.

Day 6: I Feel Like a Celebrity

Before leaving Montreal, there were a few more sites we wanted to see. We started by visiting the Atwood Market. Since I wasn’t a huge fan of Byward market, I was a little hesitant to go to this one, but it was exactly what I imagine when I think of a market. There were fine meats, flowers galore, and fresh produce. I found a couple souvenirs there.

Then, we drove up the hill to St. Joseph Oratory. This church did not quite have the same impact as Notre Dame, but it was nice to see. We then drove to Plateau one more time because I missed a little neighborhood while we were walking. Michael dropped me off since there was no parking. Because of the one-way streets, he had a hard time getting back to me. This freaked me out a little since I couldn’t see him, but we were reunited. 

After this, we had a stop outside of town at Chambly to visit the Brewery, Unibroue. There wasn’t a tasting room, we just wanted to see where the beer was made.

About three hours later, we arrived in Quebec. It was a little confusing getting around, but we figured it out. 

Our apartment is pretty cool. It is on the third floor (which is the top) so it is an interestingly shaped place. Michael’s favorite part is the turret.

For dinner, we went to a place recommended by the Vagabrothers called Chez Biceps BBQ. I was excited to have some foie gras. This dining experience ended up being one of the coolest ones I’ve ever had. We knew it was going to be good when the waiter replied after our order, “this is going to be crazy.” The food was outstanding, but what made this such an awesome experience was how we were treated. I felt the Liberated Traveler had grown in fame and I was being treated to a special service. I think the waiter thought Michael was cool. He asked if we wanted to have a shot, and he grabbed the chef to meet us. The four of us then took some sort of Polish Vodka shot. The chef was talking with us and shaking our hands. Other waiters were coming over to talk to us. It was like we were famous. I don’t know what we did, but it was one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me.

We finished the night by visiting Old Town, which we hope to see more of today.

Day 5: I’m in Love with a City

Montreal is such a cool city. There is such a variety of things to do. We started the day with a walk to Plateau and Mile End. We were in search of murals, colorful homes, poutine, bagels, and smoked meat sandwiches. 

Murals: the city has done an impressive job of encouraging mural street art. It can be found all over, but is especially prevalent in Plateau and Mile End. 

Colorful Homes: the Plateau area is home to colorful homes with steep stairs and little gardens. It is an instagrammer’s dream. 

Poutine: La Banquise is supposed to be the place for pouting, and I would agree. Other than the waitress spilling water on me twice, it was a great experience. The gravy and type of fries are what really make this place good.

Bagels: St. Viater is the place to get Montreal style bagels. Getting them in the Mile End neighborhood is unique because you get to see more of the Jewish neighborhood.

Smoked Meat Sandwich: Schwartz’s is the classic place to find this type of sandwich. It is basically a corned beef sandwich.

We needed a short nap after our hike around the city. This helped, but we decided to stop for coffee before the light show at Notre Dame. We found a little coffee shop called Tommy.

We bought tickets the day before for the Aura light show at Notre Dame. As I mentioned yesterday, this is one of my favorite churchs, but the light show made it even better. I found it to be an emotional experience that reminded me of what great achievements can be made through creativity. As if that wasn’t enough, we lingered to take photos, and the guy was nice enough to turn the lights on for us. It was just Michael and I in there. What an amazing feeling.

After having one of best moments so far on this trip, we decided to take a stroll in the night. Montreal has this awesome program called Cite Memoire. There are light shows projected all over the city with audio stories. We came across an interactive one in the alley that was mesmerizing. Feeling a bit hungry again, we stopped for pizza along the port. This was an amazing evening.

Day 4: So this is Montreal

Before we left Ottawa, we stopped at Gatineau Park. It is absolutely huge. We did a little hiking, then got back in the car.

Being in French Canada does have a different feel. We have not had any trouble communicating, but we do try to remember to say bonjour when entering a place.

We were pretty excited to enter Montreal. It immediately had a different feel than Ottawa. The suburbs seemed really nice, and the area seemed to be more alive.

Our apartment in Old Town was about $104 a night. It is huge and very classy. I’m thankful to be in the heart of Old Town. 

We started our evening walk with a visit to Notre Dame. It is probably the most beautiful church inside that I have ever seen. It is unique to see how the walls are filled with color. We liked it so much, we are going back tomorrow for the light show.

Since the weather was so perfect, we went to a bar on a rooftop terrace of a hotel. Terraces are pretty popular in Montreal, and they are fun place to grab a drink.

After our drink, we walked around Old Town a bit to reach our dinner destination. We ate at an out-of-this-world restaurant. The escargot was phenomenal, and Michael was in heaven with the pickles and bacon bits. It was a beautiful night.

Day 3: Checking out the Town

Today was a day of walking, so we fueled up by getting a big breakfast down at Byward market. We may have lingered too long because as we got up, there was a crack of thunder. We found shelter under an awning, and waited the quick storm out.

Then, it was walking time. I set mapped out a circuit to see some of the major sights. We started with Parkiment Hill. As we snapped our shots, I tried to read a little commentary so we knew what we were seeing. Michael and I are definitely fans of the Gothic Revival style. We were looking for Trudeau across the street, but no luck. All we saw was some sort of demonstration.

We passed the Supreme Court and the Veteran’s Memorial. We were origanlly planning on stopping at the war museum, but since we had a break in the rain, we thought it best to keep walking. We continued to cross over the bridge, seeing the Ottawa River and Victoria Island. I wanted to go across the river to get a different perspective of Parliament Hill.

While talking and snapping shots, a man came up to us and started yelling at us with slurred speech. He at first appeared to be a homeless man asking for a light, but then he started swearing at us and talking about how if I put my camera in people’s faces, I’m going to get my skull smashed in. I wasn’t even taking pictures of people. As we tried to walk away, he threw his cigarette at Michael and finally Turned the other way.

Michael and I were surprised about the homeless population here. A lot of what we have seen is not just people with collection cups, but people yelling and acting delusional. I don’t know why we expected there to be less of this. I guess we thought since they seem to have better health care that it would include mental health as well.

Although we were a little caught off guard, we shook it off. We passed the Canadian History Museum, and crossed back over the bridge to Major’s Hill Park. We were getting a little parched, so we stopped for a pint.

Once we completed the circuit, we walked back to the car to blast the air conditioning and head to the next neighborhood: the Glebe.

Feeling refreshed, and a little less sticky, we walked the trendy neighborhood, stopping at shops and grabbing lunch. Then, we got back in the car to visit the next part of town.

Before we got to Westboro, we took a bear break on Wellington Street. Westboro is supposed to be the hip part of town. We thought it was okay. 

We were originally going to rent bikes today, but with the morning storm and the severe thunderstorm watch until 9:15pm, we thought we better not. We wanted to rent bikes to ride along the Roseau canal. We did get to drive by it, and it definitely would have been a nice ride, but sometimes you have to be flexible with the weather.

We ate dinner at Wellington Gastropub which was featured on Vagabrothers. My pork belly was delicious. We decided to get dessert back at Byward market by picking up some beaver tails. These are basically like heavier elephant ears. Our sweet tooth was satisfied.

Day 2: To the Capital

Our stay in Toronto was short, but a new city awaited us. We began our time in Ottawa at a spa getting a couples massage. At the time of making this reservation, I had no idea how hot it was going to be. I should have also reserved some pool time. 

Our masseuses led us to our cabin, and as the stress was pressed out, wind blew through with the smell of campfire, and the waterfall relaxed our ears. It was nice.

Feeling rejuvenated, we found our apartment in the city and headed towards Byward market. We found a Mexican restaurant with unbelievable Mexican corn and tasty tacos. After loosening up with a couple margaritas, we were feeling pretty good. Our waitress was very outgoing and she gave us some great recommendations for tomorrow.

Ready for another drink, we went to the oldest tavern and sat under the canopy while sprinkles cane down. The bartender was a nice guy with stories to share about Chicago.

We weren’t ready to call it quits yet, so we found a wine bar with jazz music underground. It was a nice way to end our evening in Ottawa.

Day 1: The Road to Toronto

After having an interesting night trying to save a stray dog, 6:00 am came, and we had a date with the road. We stopped to grab a coffee, visited Michael’s mom, and then we hit the road. 

We planned to stop in Detroit for a lunch break, since that was a good midpoint. Small Batch Brewing was our destination for a pint and some grub. Once done there, we hopped over the water, and boom, we were in Canada.

As we continued through Canada, the car seemed to be getting a bit toasty. It seems our air conditioning is not quite up to par. Let’s just say Michael was not lovin it. Fortunately, we opened our windows, and aired ourselves out. Hopefully this won’t be a problem all trip. But, that’s part of travel, too, right. I think sometimes we get this notion that travel is paradise and everything is going to be perfect. Life is not perfect, and there isn’t an exception for vacation time.
When we arrived to Toronto, traffic flooded the streets we needed to go down. You see, I picked this swanky condo in the hip Queen Street West neighborhood, which is also close to Rogers Centre, the home of the Blue Jays baseball team. Wouldn’t you know it, just as we were arriving a game got out, which means thousands of fans poured into the streets. This held us back a bit, but it all worked out.

At 9pm, we had a reservation to visit a Banksy art exhibit. It was a pop up exhibit in an old warehouse curated by a former friend of Banksy. We grabbed a drink, and then headed in for our timed entrance. The exhibit showcased his work through photographs, screen prints, and even some authentic work on a cut out shutter. 

I’m not sure Banksy would have approved of fans paying to see his art, but I did appreciate seeing a chronological sequence of his work and learning more about the street artist. A quote I really liked from the exhibit was: “The time of getting fame for your name on its own is over. Artwork that is only about wanting to be famous will never make you famous. Fame is a by-product of doing something else. You don’t go to a restaurant and order a meal because you want to have a shit.”

After walking out into the night, hunger hit us. We made our way to Korean Town to slurp up some ramen. It was soooooo good. I wish we had a ramen place at home. Feeling tired from the meal and day, we came back to the apartment for the night.

Something we’ve been seeing a lot of while driving, are country flags supporting soccer teams in the World Cup. I’m hoping we can pick a team to support, and get into the action at a bar while on the trip. Who should we root for?

To the Northeast

Planning a Trip

Preparing for a trip is almost as fun as actually going on the trip.  I spend months reading about the places I’m visiting, watching videos, and researching online to determine how I want to spend my time.  Below, you will find a rough view of how I start to put together a trip.  I always plan the rooms ahead of time, but from there the calendar is pretty open.  If there is something in particular I want to do, I will make a reservation, but I try not to tie myself down too much.

Well, we are on our way.  I’ll try to post each day about our adventures.  We’ll see how well this calendar actually holds up.

Calendar

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
16-9 Hour Drive

Leave @ 6am

Stop in Detroit for Lunch
Toronto

Banksy Exhibit @ 9pm

Queen Street West-Graffiti Alley

17-4.5 Hour Drive

Ottawa

Leave @ 8am
Nordik Massage @ 3:00

Gatineau Park

Byward Market

18

Ottawa
Rent Bikes at Rideau Canal

Fairmont Château Laurier

Major’s Hill Park

Parliament Hill

Canadian War Museum

Westboro Neighborhood

Wellington Gastro Pub

19-2.5 Hour Drive

Montreal

Leave @ 9am
-Old Town

Hidden Alley

Notre Dame Basilica

Atwater Market

Rooftop Terrace

St-Viateur Bagels

20

Montreal
Schwartz’s Deli
La Banquise

Ruelle verte

Mont Royal

Oratoire Saint-Joseph

Plateau and Mile End

Biosphere

Mad Hatters

Metalomania

21-3 Hour Drive

Quebec City

Leave @ 11am
Unibroue

Chez Biceps BBQ

-Old Town

-Festibiere

L’Affaire Est Ketchup

22

Quebec City

Île d’Orléans

Wendake Indian Reservation

Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac

Le Bouche Réservation @ 7:00

23-5.5 Hour Drive

Portland

Leave @ 9am
Montmorency Falls

Zipline @ 11:00

SchoonerFest

DeMillo’s for Dinner

24

Portland
Allagash Brewery

Bite Into Maine Lobster Rolls

International Cryptozoology Museum

Street and Co. DInner

25-4 Hour Drive

Burlington

Leave @ 12pm

26

Burlington
Beer Crawl

27-6 Hour Drive

Finger Lakes

Leave @ 8am
Ommegang Brewery

-Visit Wineries and Bring Back Food to Cabin

28

Finger Lakes
Wine Tour

29-5.5 Hour Drive

Pittsburgh

Leave @ 8am
-Polish Food

30-8 Hour Drive to Home

Leave @ 10am
-Have Breakfast First

-Stop in Cleveland for Break

Canada 2018 Itinerary

  • June 16-Day One of Vacation, Stay in Toronto (9 hour drive)
  • June 17-Leave Toronto for Ottawa (4.5 Hour Drive)
  • June 18-Second Day in Ottawa
  • June 19-Leave Ottawa for Montreal (2 hour drive)
  • June 20-Second Day in Montreal
  • June 21-Leave Montreal for Quebec City (4 hour drive)-Stop at Unibroue and Trois Rivieries
  • June 22-Second Day in Quebec City
  • June 23-Leave Quebec City for Portland (5.5 hour drive)
  • June 24-Second Day in Portland
  • June 25-Leave Portland for Vermont (4 hour drive)
  • June 26-Second Day in Vermont
  • June 27-Leave for Finger lakes (6 hour drive)-Stop at Ommegang
  • June 28-Second Day in Finger Lakes
  • June 29-Leave for Pittsburgh (5.5 hour drive)
  • June 30-Head Home (8 Hour Drive)

44h Trip

Canada 2018 Ideas

  • Toronto (1 night)
    • Casa Loma
    • Starving Artist-Waffles
    • The Art of Banksy Exhibition
    • Queen Street West-Graffiti Alley
      • Barchef
      • Queen West Antique Center
      • Skyyard at the Drake Hotel
      • Type Books
  • Ottawa (2 nights)
    • ByWard Market-Farm to Table
    • Notre Dame Basilica
    • Parliament Hill
    • The Grand Pizza (VB)
    • Beaver tail
    • Check out Up and Coming Towns (Look for victoire store)
    • Brew Donkey Craft Beer Tours (VB)
    • Wellington Gastro Pub-pair music with food (VB)
    • Spa Outside of Ottawa Nordik (VB)
    • Rideau Canal-Rent Bikes
    • Gatineau Park
  • Montreal (2 nights)
  • Quebec City (2 nights)
    • Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac (Get Old Fashioned Fairmount)
    • Old Town
    • Wendake
    • jacques cartier national park
    • Le Bouche (Quebecois Restaurant with bearded guys)
    • L’Affaire Est Ketchup (cook on electric stoves and heavy metal music)
    • Chez Biceps BBQ (Bacon in Bourbon)
    • Battuto Italian restaurant
    • He boislocal beer crawl
    • Festibiere
    • Snack bar poutine
    • Montmorency Falls
    • Picnic on The Plains of Abraham
    • Quartier Petit Champlain
    • Île d’Orléans-Countryside
    • SCANNER BISTRO-Heavy Metal Bar
    • BATEAU DE NUIT-Heavy Metal Bar
  • Portland, Maine (2 Nights)
    • Allagash Brewery
    • International Cryptozoology Museum
  • Vermont (2 nights)
  • Finger Lakes New York (2 nights)
  • Pittsburgh (1 Night)

Thoughts on Solo Travel

Mwah Solo travel is often portrayed through idealistic eyes.  I know that was my original perspective.  After being on my own for nearly a month, my view has become a little more realistic.  Every person will have a different perspective because we are all in different situations.  I am a young female who is not terribly harsh on the eyes.  My experience will be much different than a sixty year old male.  Here is what I experienced.

My Story

When I dreamed of solo travel, overarching themes came to mind like freedom, destiny, growth, and self-actualization.  I would be like a pioneer of my own life.  It is odd how sometimes thoughts become realities, but in a different way than you mapped out.

My first day and night alone were a little embarrassing.  I questioned what I was doing and wondered if I made a horrible mistake.  The fight vs. flight set right in, and my first reaction was flight.  I even considered calling the airline to see if I could change my flight.  After the initial panic (and sleep), I realized I was being ridiculous (especially the reoccurring thought that I might choke to death because no one could save me).  I told myself, “this is what you’ve been counting down for.  This is your dream.”  I decided to make a plan, because that is my coping mechanism.  I created a calendar and brainstormed everything I wanted to do.  Then I mapped out the days.

Once I knew all of the adventures I had planned, I felt better.  Routine started to set in and my photography really took off.  I was busy learning, seeing, and doing.  I even started to think, “what will I do when I get home?  Life will be so boring.”

Then, bad news came from home.  I thought my anxiety level was high in the beginning, but knowing that I was needed at home and I couldn’t get there was awful.  I feared that I wouldn’t make it home in time.  I’ve never had to make such important decisions on my own.  When is the right time to come home?  How will I get home?  How will I take care of all the “other” details like checking out with my landlord and getting everything done in time?  I’d like to say I kept my cool the whole time, but I’d be lying.

Through this experience, I have learned a lot about myself, what I want, and what I can accomplish.  This was the goal of the trip, but I didn’t realize this is how it would all happen.  I love travel, but I also love my family and friends.  I do need them.  I don’t think I can just move across the globe, but I sure can visit as many places as my heart desires as long as I have a home waiting for me.  Even as I wait for the dust to settle here, I dream of where I will be going next.  Perhaps I am a chronic sufferer of the grass being greener on the other side.  Talk about a paragraph being full of cliches…

So, what are my overall thoughts on solo travel?  There is good and bad.  I think if it is approached the right way, it can be a very liberating experience.  Here are some benefits and downsides to traveling alone, plus some tips to make it the best experience possible.

Pros to Solo Travel

-Freedom of Choice

-Create your own schedule

-Move at your own pace

-Greater growing experience

-No compromises have to be made with others

-Typically we are more approachable when we are alone

Cons to Solo Travel

-Loneliness can set in

-It can be more costly

-Sometimes paranoia can take over when too much time is spent alone

-Extra cautions need to be taken to remain safe

-If we are uncomfortable, we may be less adventurous and miss out on opportunities

-It can be challenging to trust others because we can become more guarded

Tips

-Select your destination carefully.  There are some places that are much more comforting to solo travelers than others.  I felt so much more comfortable and at ease during my layover in Dublin than I did my entire month in Paris.  Language barriers do make things more challenging.  Different cultures have different values and customs.  Perhaps it is best to find one that is more similar to your own for your first trip alone.

-Balance city and country in your itinerary.  City life can be harsh and sometimes we need to be able to let our guard down a little.

-Don’t be surprised when fear steps in, but have a plan to combat it.  If you know how to calm yourself down, you are a step ahead.  If not, try different strategies to cope.

-It is okay to be homesick.  Fill your needs with skype, home comforts (whether it is food or entertainment), and connections with other travelers.  I spaced out my English-speaking interactions with fun events like a cooking class, champagne tour, and guided walks through the city.  Even though I didn’t make long lasting friendships, I did have conversations that helped me fill my social quota.

-Do what feels comfortable.  If you don’t feel safe alone at night, enjoy each daylight hour.  I imagined myself exploring the night scene, but after being followed for almost a mile by a man and then approached, I realized that I would have to change my plans.  I received a lot of unwanted attention that made me realize being out late at night would make me feel uncomfortable.  It is unfortunate, but I will have to enjoy those moments with friends while I travel.

-Eat out at lunch.  I found that I could really enjoy my lunch on my own.  Eating alone at dinner seemed to draw more attention that I didn’t want.  I must have been sending off some serious pheromones because I’ve never gotten so many “I love you baby,” whistles, or looks in my life.

-If you want to avoid unwanted attention, whether they are gypsies, hagglers, perverts, drunks, or homeless people, you have to be harsh.  At home, I am the kind that smiles as someone walks by in the grocery store, or will say hi to the hiker walking past me on the trail.  In Paris I found that making eye contact more than once was not a good idea.  When I talked about this with my tour guide, she said that to avoid unwanted approaches, simply look through people.  You gaze as though they are invisible.  Eye contact in the states is different than eye contact in other countries.  Perhaps I am a little paranoid, but when I am on my own and have to handle every situation by myself, I find that caution is what feels best to me.

To Sum it Up…

Will I ever travel alone again?  You betcha.  Will I do it the same way I did this time?  No.  A big part of traveling alone is learning about what works for you.  After getting to know myself, I know that my next solo adventure will look a little different.  Sure there will be struggles again, but there will also be growth and unforgettable moments.  What a life…

Rodin Gardens and Lessons Learned

HandsI learned a very important lesson on this trip: If you want to see something, make it a priority.  I thought I had time, but for those of you that have been following, you know that the time was cut short.  I am so thankful that I was able to be reunited with my family and help with recovery, but now I wish I would have organized the time I had a little differently.

There are so many lessons learned on this trip.  I plan to share them once I have some real time to reflect.  Until then, check out one place that was high on my list to return to, but I didn’t get back to see.