Thursday night around nine when one of my roommates and I got off work, we loaded down our car and headed to Canada for a weekend of exploring.
The drive was about seven hours and about thirty minutes after we crossed the border, we decided we were too tired to drive anymore, so we began searching for a hotel – which turned out to be way more complicated than it should of been. First off, neither of us had any cell service – I ended up not having any all weekend, but thankfully she had international data. Secondly, it was two in the morning and 24 hour hotels weren’t a thing in this small town. The third problem was that all the road signs were in French and kilometers – isn’t the United States supposed to convert to the metric system any day now?
We parked outside of a small motel – that happened to be right across from a cemetery and decided to sleep in the car. Twenty minutes later, with a blue light shining in the car and our minds still racing, aggravated there wasn’t a clerk at the front desk, we realized that neither of us would be getting any sleep.
“Want me to keep driving?” I asked, my eyes still closed.
“Yup,” she replied, not bothering to move.
So we drove about another two hours, deeper into the heart of Canada toward Montreal, before my eyes began to become heavier than my mom would be happy to hear about. The loud beat of the music was no longer doing it’s job of keeping me focused. The coffee had long wore off. I was tired.
After stopping at another half dozen hotels, only to find the lights off and the door closed, I pulled into a brightly lit gas station. I was well prepared to call it quits for the night and sleep curled up in the car, but my friend was not. She googled and called several more hotels, finally getting an answer on the last ring at the last hotel.
We booked an overpriced room that was three miles up the road. Best money I ever spent.
“You should know by now that I’m not taking no for an answer,” she told me as we pulled into the small hotel’s parking lot. I was too tired to thank her for being more stubborn that I was that night, but I think she received my gratitude as I passed out, at four in the morning, within two minutes of walking in the hotel room.
The next morning, we slept in until around ten. Fortunately, Canadian hotels serve breakfast until three in the morning. At least they got something right.
When we finally got to Montreal, we went to check into our hostel. This was my first time ever staying in one so I was pretty amazed. The lobby had a lounge area, a full kitchen, and a couple of computers. It was buzzing with energy and there were conversations going on in multiple languages. The downstairs had a bar, pool tables, a small stage, and couches. The rooms were set up like dorms, bunk beds lining the walls and a shared bathroom. Each bed had a thick curtain around it for privacy and everyone talked in whispers in case someone else was sleeping.
After we dropped off everything and got our car parked, we set off on foot to explore the city. The road right beside our hostel had beads hanging down that stretched on for miles. I thought they were so neat, all the colors visible down the road. Anytime that weekend we got in the area with the pink beads, we knew we were close to “home”. We found the metro and went downtown to get homemade Arepas – a Venezuelan food. I was a little skeptical to order one, but I’m really glad that I did. Fried cornmeal bread stuffed with chicken, grilled veggies, sauteed onions, and fresh avocado was presented to me and I ate in about, uh, six minutes. So good.
On the walk back, we took lots of pictures, admired the vintage-looking houses, and got Starbucks coffee; creatures of habit, I guess.
That night we hung out in the downstairs area of our hostel. We were sitting on the couches, waiting for a band to play, when two awkward guys came up to us and asked if we wanted to play pool. We looked at each other and kinda shrugged, not wanting to lose our seats.
“Look, if you win, I’ll give you one of these Cuban cigars,” one of the guys said, pulling out a plastic bag of several supposed expensive cigars.
“Sure, we’ll play,” we decided. Mainly because I’m ridiculously competitive.
I first want to say that I’m pretty bad at pool. My brother will vouch for that. He absolutely kicks my butt anytime we play on the lopsided pool table that sits in our garage. And the friend I was with is worse than me and she’ll tell you so while laughing.
But I guess something about being in Canada at a cool little hostel made us better, because we ended up beating him. Well actually, I ended up beating him because my friend got bored and dropped the game about two turns in. (When I told my brother about this his first response was to ask if the guy was in a wheelchair or had a condition with his brain.) Ouch.
We won the cigar and he annoyingly handed it over. It was pretty cool for about two minutes until I remembered that I didn’t smoke and I now had an $86 cigar. I threw it in my pocket and soon forgot about it. Apparently this is a cringe worthy matter for expensive cigar lovers.
The next morning I drug Lauren out of bed and we ate the frozen waffles our hostel offered and geared up for the walking tour down by a worker at the hostel.
The tour was pretty cool and our to our guide was absolutely adorable. He had the longest eyelashes and the clearest blue eyes and his French accent was so fascinating to me. I probably could of have listened to him talk all day I loved it so much. The tour itself was pretty neat. We saw city hall, the state bank, and the church Celine Dion got married in.
After the tour, we went to cute restaurant with a live jazz band. While we were waiting in line, I noticed a girl who was staying in our hostel and who had been on our walking tour. We chatted with her some before she asked if she could have lunch with us. Of course we said yes, we were both captivated by her adorable Australian accent.
She was so fun to be around. We learned that she took seven weeks off from her nursing job and was traveling around North America by herself meeting up with friends in various states. I would never have the nerve to be able to do that, but I was so fascinated that she did. She’d been to thirty – four countries and more states in America than I have.
At the end of our lunch, she told us she was meeting up with a friend that was from there. She told us that he was going to show her around the rest of the day and offered to let us tag along. Of course we were beyond excited.
Her friend was so fun and we had a blast letting him be our tour guide for the day. We walked up and down the streets admiring the street art, sampling appetizers at restaurants, eating gelato, and doing some shopping, but of course, my favorite part was listening to him talk to people in French.
To me, when someone speaks another language, it sounds like gibberish. I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that it actually makes sense to people. I wonder what each word means in my language. Learning a new language and becoming bilingual is pretty high on my bucket list. I do think I managed a couple of French words, but just the basics. Okay fine, all I know how to say is hello and thank you, but I’m gonna work on it.
That night we went to a place where you throw axes at a target. It was pretty cool, but we decided not to stay and do it since you had to stay for at least an hour. So we left and continued to walk down the street when we came upon a show of some short. We all agreed to stop and see what was going on, but that we wouldn’t stay too long. It seemed to be a sort of gymnastic show. People were involved in choreographed dances, tightrope walks, and calla-static activities.There was a huge spotlight and you could see the shadows dancing on the building. We ended up staying until the end of show we were so intrigued.
As we continued our walk down the street, we came upon a small street festival. I heard that if you’re ever bored in Montreal then it’s your own fault and after this weekend, I 100% believe that. The festival was kinda like the fair, minus the rides and the strange employees. We ate a waffle on a stick that was drenched in chocolate that was so delicious my mouth is still watering.
After walking around there for an hour or so, we decided we needed actual food since it was a little past midnight and we hadn’t technically had dinner. So we felt obligated to grab poutines – a famous Canadian food consisting of fries smothered in gravy and cheese and we added some pulled pork on there. So good.
We ended the night laughing with full bellies, as we walked back to the hostel listening to people’s conversations that we couldn’t understand.
The next morning after we checked out, we drove to Mount Royal for a view of the city. It was a short walk to the top and the air was refreshing after breathing in city air for a couple of days. It was the perfect way to wrap up a fun, eventual weekend.
At the border on the way back, we got asked the usual questions. Any alcohol in the car? No. Tobacco? No. Firearms or weapons? No.
And then we were asked to pop our trunk, which I thought was normal procedure, but apparently it wasn’t. After a few minutes, the guy came back up to our window and gave us a funny look.
“You guys lied to me,” he said. We thought he was joking or had a weird sense of humor since we couldn’t think of what we could of possibly lied about. We awkward laughed and waited to see where this was going.
“That Cuban cigar contains tobacco,” he told us. Ours eyebrows shot up.
“I completely forgot I had that,” I told him.
“Yeah yeah, it’s fine,” he said as he opened the gate to let us cross over to America.
It felt nice to be back in familiar territory so we celebrated by blasting music and rolling our windows down, letting the wind whip our hair in every direction.