NIAGARA

We left my dad’s house Friday afternoon around 12pm. It took us just a little over 7 hours to get to the border in Buffalo. The lines weren’t too bad and we were asked about everyone’s residency status (more on that later). I can’t help but to always notice the amount of bugs that are killed on these trips. Sorry about the dirty windshield picture!

After seamlessly crossing the border we headed to our Airbnb. We quickly checked in and dropped off our things. It was 8:00pm and we were hungry. Not too far from us there was a Quesada Burritos and Tacos. This vendor was one of many I noticed on that trip that sold meat alternatives. Thank you Canada for getting with the program and giving me options! Burritos in bellies and it was time to go to the falls.

We parked in a lot across the street from the falls. It converts to $14.87 USD. With my Amex I don’t pay an exchange fee either. Learn more about that here. It was easy to get to Horseshoe Falls where we planned on watching the fireworks from. There was a full moon out that night too.

We planned our day specifically for that Friday as it was the first fireworks show of the summer 2019 season. It started at 10pm sharp and we wanted to make sure we didn’t miss it. It normally last a few minutes but being the first of the season it was about 15 minutes long. There was music accompanying the fireworks which seemed to dance along to the rythym. Below you’ll see my dad and stepmom watching the fireworks. It was 46 degrees that night so we were all wearing hats and hoodies.

The next morning my dad and I picked up donuts and coffee for breakfast at a Tim Horton’s. They are the equivalent of Dunkin Donuts in New York and have just as many. They open early so we were out the door by 8am while everyone else finished getting ready. Once we ate and all headed out, we parked in the same lot as the night before.

We purchased bundled tickets at the Niagara Parks ticket office. Our bundle is called “The Classic” and it included the following attractions:

We walked along the water for 20 minutes to reach the Hornblower cruise. The line seemed long but almost everyone in front of us got on the next boat. Leaving us to be the first ones on when it came back. We ended up in the edge of the top deck with unobstructed views. Can you see the excitement in our faces for having scored great seats to the waterfall show?

The boat goes past the base of the American Falls as it heads to the base of Horseshoe Falls. The total travel time on the boat is about 30 minutes. I kept my phone out as long as I could. Not wanting to damage it I put it away when we were at the base of Horseshoe. You get to a point where you think the boat it going to go right into the water because it gets so close. And thank God for water proof boots and ponchos. You get soaked on this boat standing on those decks. It would not have been fun to squish around the rest of the day!

Next on the list was Niagara’s Fury. We walked 20 minutes back to where we started. The WeGo buses can also take you from one site to the next if the walking gets to be too much. Thank you to the hot dog vendor outside because that was lunch lol.

They don’t allow people to film or take pictures once inside so I’ll quickly describe this attraction. It’s a family friendly cartoon introduction to the Falls and then a 4D experience with snow, thunder, rain, etc. It’s definitely a more entertaining way to learn how the falls were formed.

Afterwards we went to Journey Behind the Falls. These tunnels are 130 years old and located 125 feet below the building. There are two windows directly behind the waterfall and the observation platform at the base of the waterfall. The sound of the water crashing down is intense. You can hear it’s power rumbling through the tunnels. It was a steady reminder that water is a force to be reckoned with.

After removing the last of the ponchos we headed to the car. It was time to switch out of our boots and into dryer footwear.

We walked over to the WeGo bus terminal and waited for the green line that would take us to White Water Walk. Remember, the bundles we purchased included access to these buses. The bus makes several stops at other listed attractions and the total ride lasted about 20 minutes.

There’s an elevator that takes you to the base of the gorge closest to the water on the Canadian side. White Water Walk is a half mile round trip walk on a boardwalk. There are plaques and viewpoints along the way to lear about the area you’re walking in. These rapids are class VI. Meaning: “runs of this classification are rarely attempted and often exemplify the extremes of difficulty, unpredictability and danger. The consequences of errors are severe and rescue may be impossible.” Standing there watching the water go by you can see why it’s classified as such.

We took the green line back to the parking lot and stopped at an A&W for dinner. We then drove back to the AirBnB to watch a movie. My feet had done enough walking for the day and I wanted to rest up before tomorrow’s drive.

The next morning it was Tim Horton’s coffees and pastries again. YUM! We left the airbnb and headed south. Ahh yes, I mentioned the residency status: We were informed at the border that it’s not suffice to travel with just a passport if you’re a green card holder. You have to have your resident card with you as well. Otherwise it’s a hefty fine. We didn’t have that problem because my dad made sure to bring them. But it could have really ruined an otherwise awesome trip. So if you plan on crossing the border, remember to carry all your proper identification!

And that ladies and gentlemen is how we spent a quick weekend in Niagara, Canada. It’s a shame the long drive deters so many people I know personally from visiting. If you’re willing to take the drive though, it’s worth it!

“I wish that road trips could pay my bills.”

-unknown

MONTREAL

BACKGROUND

My husband asked me what my plans were for the weekend. Having spent the previous two weekends in other states, I decided to keep my schedule clear. My expectations were Netflix, Chinese food and wine. So he brings up Rhode Island. Block Island to be exact. Not having been to the beach yet this year I figure it’s an excellent idea. Totally unaware of what it’s like to plan a trip for Block Island, we were in for a surprise. It’s NOT that easy. Too complicated for a spontaneous trip. I simply did not have the patience to figure out the ferries, fees, and hotel in such a short amount of time.

After weighing our options we set eyes on Montreal. It would be a straight 5H 45M drive if we left at midnight. It was 10:30pm and we had 1.5 hours to shower and pack. Talk about anxiety. I’m a planner. If you’ve read my other blog posts, then you also know I do extensive research. I like to use up every minute I have while I’m in a new place. And I like to pack at my leisure, but this wasn’t going to allow for that kind of preparation. Granted I had been to Montreal twice before. But those were my underage years. And traveling with your husband is very different than traveling with your parent.

All packed and showered, we hit the road. We only stopped twice to fill up the gas tank and purchase a pair of Redbulls. Once when we first left and once around 3:30am at a Sunoco. The bathrooms were clean FYI. As you can see below it was dark. And yes, that’s a nasty bug splat on the windshield.

After what felt like a very short trip (due to the very entertaining conversation) we were at the Canadian border. There were zero lines to cross the border, but we were questioned more rigorously than last month when I went to Niagara. He wanted to know where we were staying (address and all), where we were coming from, what the purpose of our trip was, and what we were going to do until businesses opened at 9am. We answered his questions and were on our way.

Sunrise was a pretty one that morning too.

DAY 1

We parked in the hotel’s parking lot at 6:00am. We both broke night and it was time to sleep. We parked the car in the shade and wrapped up in the blankets. I knocked out until about 9:30am. I 100% flat-ironed my hair in the car in the front seat. Don’t judge me! And Tony woke up around 10:30am as I was finishing.

I was so happy to have stayed at the hotel we picked. They graciously let us check in at 10:30am. Check in wasn’t until 4:00pm! And the hotel is conveniently across the street from the olympic park and the botanical garden.

Once in the room I hopped in the shower while Tony went to the barber shop for a shape-up. After we freshened up, we were both ready to find some food for lunch. 

Tony found this neat little place called Copper Branch. They serve 100% plant-based, gluten-free, all-natural, organic food. So I ordered a dish with quinoa, turmeric tofu scramble, carrots, beets, chick peas, spinach hummus, and I don’t know what else. I was stuffed and I only got the mini. The regular size bowl could easily have fed Tony and I.

After lunch we headed over to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Admission is $24 CAD per adult, which converts to $18.22 USD per adult.

We decided to go straight to the top floor and work our way down. I did not know Thierry Mugler had a temporary exhibit here. How lucky is that?!

The first room was intense for me. I won’t ruin it if you plan on visiting by posting the photos or videos I have of the room. It’s definitely meant to be an experience. Just know that it was dark and I’m a big chicken so I hate the dark. Otherwise, the exhibit was amazing. So much talent! And obviously I knew who he was because my fave Cardi B wore one of his archived pieces to the Grammy’s. Cute video on Vogue’s page about that process here.

The rest of the museum was pleasant. We saw a couple of Monet’s and some more contemporary pieces. One that stood out to me was Speaking for the Light by James Turrell. I had seen one of his installations in Seattle in March at the Henry Art Gallery. This piece made a beam of light look tangible. Like I could go into that room and touch that green shape. Total mind fuck.

Not far from the museum you have Mont Royal. This park has plenty of hiking, running, biking space and viewpoints. Not having planned to do any of those activities we found the highest viewpoint we could drive to for vistas. Low effort+high reward = crowds. It took us quite a bit of time to reach the parking lot at Belvédère Camillien-Houde. After all it was Saturday and they had only one lane operating due to construction. When we finally got to the lot we were lucky to find parking right away.

You can see the city from the lot. But if you’re willing to do some cardio you can enjoy other vantage points without the crowds. Seemed like most people didn’t want to break a sweat that day. We climbed these stairs and veered left at the fork. And it didn’t take us more than 15 minutes to get there.

Old Montreal was next on the list. Parking was a real pain to find so we gave up after about 30 minutes of looking and parked at the lot on Clock Tower Quay Street. It cost $25 CAD and was for 24 hours. We walked south past zip lines, bars, restaurants, paddle boats, etc. There’s a little something for everyone in the port area and it’s family friendly. The cobblestone streets and shops are at the turn of every corner. Some were under construction, but nothing that derailed the experience. The nice weather also made it enjoyable. We found plenty of outdoor seating and beer gardens. My favorite being the Hoegaarden tent obviously. Below you’ll find a slideshow of a few pictures captured there.

Running on approximately 3 hours of sleep it was time to head back to the hotel. No amount of Redbull or coffee was going to keep me awake! I read somewhere that people don’t go out on the town until late anyways. I napped for a little more than an hour. I woke up just before 11pm and we were at our first bar by midnight.

We decided on the neighborhood of Hochelaga. Our first stop was Blockhaus. It was such an unassuming spot. From street level all you see is a bouncer and a doorway leading to some stairs. Once inside there was a full bar and plenty of dancing patrons. I don’t think it’s necessary to state this, but for anyone who wants to know: it’s a gay bar. And it has gender neutral bathrooms. More importantly, it has a pool table good music and drinks. That’s all we could have asked for 🙂

Our second stop for the night was Bar Davidson. This bar had slot machines and a pool table. Hip hop going back to the 90s was blaring out the doorway. We let nostalgia kick in and had ourselves a good dance off.

I know we went to a third location on this road, but honestly I can’t remember the name. All I can say is we had a blast! Good night Hochelaga!

DAY 2

After getting to bed at 3:30am neither of us cared to get up early. So we slept in until 11:00am as check out was 12:00pm. We left the car parked in the hotel lot and walked over to Olympic Park. This stadium is where the 1976 Olympic games were held and its 45 degree slanted tower is a site. The park connects to the Saputo stadium, planetarium and Biodome.

Across the street you’ll find the Botanical garden. Having been to one in California, New York and El Salvador I was excited to see what this one had to offer. My first error was underestimating how large it is. Definitely the largest one I’ve been to thus far. It has large exterior gardens and a very large greenhouse. We spent 2.5 hours walking around the grounds and didn’t even see the whole thing.

I won’t even try to pretend to be horticulturalist. I don’t recall the names of all these flowers or plants or what part of the world they’re from. But these living things exist all over the world. It’s good to think about that for a moment. How lucky are we to live in a time where you can see plants found in other countries? Or found in areas very far from home? All in one dedicated space!

This botanical garden is definitely one I would want to visit again. There’s just so much to see I’m sure I missed some gems. Also it’s not a bad way to get your steps in for the day. I walked over 10K in this garden alone lol. For those concerned about the walk, there is a trolley dedicated to the elderly and disabled.

Having burned plenty of calories it was time for food! Le Blind Pig was our next and final stop in Montreal. Beers were $3 CAD and the food was good. Tony had been talking about eating poutine the whole drive up and was finally getting it. His was served with shredded chicken and peas.

With outdoor seating on a summer day I had plenty to be happy about. People watching wasn’t crazy busy but enough to be entertaining. Some passer-by’s were coming back from grocery trips while others seemed to be rolling out of bed. There were a few runners and music coming from apartments on the second floors. Some businesses were still in the process of opening up shop.

And then it was time to go home 😦

We left Montreal at 5:30pm and there were 4 other cars at the border. The crossing was smooth and we were asked one question. We stopped for food around 9:30pm and were home by 12:30am.

The drive home always seem so dreadful. The idea of having to go to work the next day after enjoying a weekend in another country just doesn’t sit right with my soul. So as I write this I’m getting up to ask my husband where we’ll be going this weekend lol.

I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me.

Walt Whitman