Canadian Adventure: QC to ON

Bed & Breakfast in MontrealThis morning we woke up early and beat the rush for the showers. (Did I mention that the place we stayed at in Montreal had shared bathrooms?) We were packed and downstairs at 8 am, ready for the “breakfast” part of the B&B. It was the two of us plus a young woman from Japan who had just finished studying English in Vancouver for three months, who was traveling around Canada sightseeing. Belva took good care of us. We had tea and OJ, a sizable fruit cup, homemade bread for toast with jam, bacon, and eggs. Unfortunately she didn’t ask us how we wanted our eggs… they all came out over easy, which is not my favorite. She sat down and chatted with the three of us as we finished our breakfast. She told us a few stories about the house. Apparently she has only lived in the house for about 8 years, and only more recently decided to open it up as a bed & breakfast. Earlier in the house’s history it had been some kind of shelter for women, and in the early part of the century it belonged to a wealthy man who had a fountain in the middle of the room that was now an open dining room / living room. Very interesting.

When three other guests came downstairs for breakfast, we used that as our opportunity to check out. We settled the bill with Belva, loaded up the car, then headed for the highway. I was pleased to find that it was relatively painless to get out of the city at 9 o’clock in the morning.

Gas station in Canada, 2004We took Hwy 20 out of Montreal, which eventually turned into 410, the highway we stayed on for five hours across Ontario. We stopped briefly a few times, to switch places, to get gas (79 cents per litre – sounds cheap, but really it’s not), and to eat lunch. Mainly the landscape looked something like, well, Illinois… lots of corn fields and warehouses for agricultural products.

We stopped for lunch at a random exit where we were both starving and just needed a break from staring at the road. A sign on the highway advertised a “theme park” called “The Big Apple”. Dave thought it might be a major attraction so he was about to pass it by, but I urged him to turn in because I thought at the very least it would have picnic benches or something for us to sit at while we made and ate our PB&J. I was wrong about the picnic benches, and Dave was mistaken in his interpretation of “theme park”. Let’s be honest, there was some kind of race track, and a petting zoo, and a bakery where people can buy pies. I’m not sure “theme park” is really the applicable phrase in thie situation, though.

Rabbit at The Big Apple in CanadaWe sat on the grass to put our sandwiches together and were accosted by a brown rabbit with a chunk of its ear missing. Bunny battle wounds? We found ourselves having to defend our position against the rabbit, keeping it at bay as we made sandwiches and ate them. “Ah, it’s just a harmless little bunny, you said!” We did manage to keep our food away from it, but it stared at us from two feet away the entire time.

Continuing west on the highway, I found myself getting confused about the numbers in Canada. Any time we spend money, we have to remember that the dollar amounts are in Canadian money, so it’s not the same as spending that amount in U.S. dollars. (It’s cheaper – one U.S. dollar is about $1.30 in Canadian dollars.) Also, since everything is in kilometers, I have to keep remembering that distances and speeds are not the same, making it very hard to estimate how long it’s going to take to get from, say, Kingston to Toronto. But my brain is starting to think this lack of reality is true about every number I see, so when I see that the population of a given town is 75,000, I wonder what that is in American… wait… *smile*

Finally we reached Toronto around 3 pm, and headed downtown. Unfortunately it took about an hour to get from the freeway to the Financial District, between the traffic, the road construction, and the fact that Toronto drivers are not very assertive when trying to turn right through a crosswalk full of pedestrians. Alas.

Also, our trip to the Financial District was all for naught. We’ve been trying for several days to get to a Fleet Bank or Bank of America to complete our payment to the moving company, but there simply are none in any of the cities we’ve visited so far. We were promised that there’s a B of A at this address in Toronto… but it turned out to be a corporate office, not a banking center.

Frustrated, we drove to University of Toronto to find Keith. Keith and Joanne Broekhuisen are friends of ours from Boston who moved to Toronto a couple of years ago, and we’re staying with them tonight and tomorrow. We borrowed the internet connection in Keith’s lab to upload some photos and to sort out our financial situation with the movers. Hopefully we can finalize things with that in the morning – we’re tired of thinking about it!

We finished up with the photos and then headed back to Keith & Jo’s apartment. Joanne was waiting for us, so we just hung out for a little bit before going out to dinner. We ate at a place called Swiss Chalet, which apparently is a typical Canadian chain restaurant, serving rotisserie chicken and the like at very reasonable prices. They eat there all the time, which seemed like a good endorsement. We had a good time and the chicken was very good. The only negative thing was the drink I ordered… seeking a non-beer drink like cider or Smirnoff Ice, I was adventurous and ordered this thing called Kiwi Lime Boomerang. It turned out to actually be beer with sugar and kiwi & lime flavoring in it. Since the waitress didn’t know what it was when she told me what the options were, I made sure she knew before I left, so she can warn other non-beer drinkers who come in.

Then we all went home and just hung out watching the Sox-Jays game and then the Olympics. We managed to park our car down the street in the visitor’s lot of the building where the Broekhuisens’ friend Eric lives, so it’s safe until we leave Friday morning. That means Dave and I are free to explore the city on Thursday without looking for parking!

Before settling down for the night, I also called home to wish a Happy 20th Anniversary to my parents. Love you guys!

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