We were still throwing ideas around as to where we should go and what we should do this week. We kinda had a pretty solid plan to head up and check out Montreal and Ottawa and had done our research for best prices and places to stay. However, as the legends that they are, last night Uncle Drew and Aunty Jen casually just said to us “Why dont you just take the car?”. Bec and I looked at each other, and were like “Well ok then”.
So that was that. We saved a good $400 on train tickets. Champions.
So, were up at 4am, to pack the car and get on the road. We leave just after 5, and unsurprisingly, once we make it to the other side of Toronto, we pull over for a nap. Bec rekons to me “Set the timer for 30mins”. I want to sleep for 30mins though, so I set the timer for 40 mins. I have no idea how, but she still wakes up with 11mins left. The woman has me beat.
Were boosting it down the highway right? In true Canadian form, everyone is sitting 20km over the speed limit. Nobody cares. The limit says 80km/h, but after a few quick calculations and factoring in the possibility of being fined relative to your position among the cars around you, you soon realise that the speed limit actually is 100+km/h. You may think I am taking the piss.
This is in no way an exaggeration.
The lanes closest to the on and off ramps are reserved for the more conservative among us, while the further out lanes are occupied by those who encourage us to do things that we shouldn’t, like drive 20km/h over the limit.
So were cruising along doing about 115 in a 100 zone, and this cop comes right up behind us. I’m thinking, “Shouldn’t have trusted these bloody Canadians that easy”, so we merge into the slower lane, and to our surprise, the cop just boosts it past us. Doesn’t wanna fine anyone, just wants to keep up with the rest of the punters doing 20 click over the limit. Its actually insane.
In Australia, they’ll pull you up if you’re 7km over the limit.
We’ve been taking turns on who is driving, and we need to make sure we are on the right track. We haven’t discovered that feature where you can download maps, so we have to keep finding places with free wifi. Fortunately for us, EVERYWHERE has free wifi, so it isn’t hard to find somewhere to cater to our needs. In this case, it was McDonalds. We were keen for a coffee and a muffin. Plus they had a pretty rad deal on.
So, that settled it. McDonalds was our 7:32 am saviour.
I have not heard such sincerity in Bec’s voice in the last week or so like I heard at that McDonalds. Were sitting down by this fake fire that isn’t on, and she looks me dead in the eye: “Not gonna lie… This is a fabulous muffin”. I cracked up laughing. The thing that I found most surprising wasn’t the statement as a whole, but the choice of words. You know its the real deal when someone uses a word like fabulous.
With mochas on our lips and fabulous muffins in our bellies, we kept moving to Ottawa.
We were already excited to see Ottawa, but one thing that made it that much better was our inside source… You see, we have a couple mates that we got to know in Melbourne, who now live in Ottawa. We pull into the City, and make contact with Patrick and Kate, our Melbournian friends. We have a few select hours here, so we want to invest them in the best possible places, plus we are usually used to getting the typical “Ohh… Oh boy. Ahhhh… Well, have you tried *insert incredibly tourist-like attraction*?” from tourist or info centre punters.
So. While we are waiting to kill some time, we swing into the byway markets, which is really close to the CBD. We wander around, eat, drink and touch things that we cant afford. I don’t understand why we do it. There’s a weird satisfaction that comes when you get to touch something that you know you cant take home with you. The not satisfying part is having to look the store owner in the eyes while he is trying to workout whether he should make the awkward conversation in the hope that it will eventuate into a sale.
What we definitely can afford though… Is a BEAVER TAIL.
My God. These are de-friggin-licious. If you go to Ottawa, do yourself a solid. Get yourself a salted caramel beaver tail, and then thank me later.
Now, for my homeland countrymen, a beaver tail isn’t a rootail. Its an oblong pizza base-ish fried thing, sprinkled with sugar, caramel syrup and crunchy caramel bits. This kind of diabetes tastes as good as it sounds. So we mung on this, and make our way up to meet our mate Patrick at the parliament house.
Already, Bec and I have been impressed with all the old-world architecture among the city. Everywhere you look, there is evidence of a once flourishing British Empire, and an impressive one at that. We wander up to Parliament house, and it is bloody freezing cold. I cant remember exactly what it was, but it was below -10 degrees. Everyone is huddled up and surrounding the parliament fire pit coming out of the water-thingy.
It comes out of the water. Dead set.
I don’t know how it works, but one thing I know for certain…
It doesn’t give off much warmth. Needless to say, we didn’t hang around for long. We did however, head to the parliament house with the intention of meeting up with mates of ours from Melbourne. We leave our rendezvous point, friend in tow, in pursuit of a decent local cafe. We need only to head 2 blocks away before we arrive at our destination.
You can definitely tell the french influence on the place. Other than the fact that everything has to bi-lingual, the coffee shops resemble to feel of something I would expect to find in a lavish french kitchen.
I don’t mind it.
I’m not used to it, but I don’t mind it. Its something new.
We sit, and chat and catch up on life. We’re pretty much done with our coffees by the time that Kate, Patrick’s mum arrives. We get chatting, and not long into our chat, I remember that I have a very limited time left on our parking. I have to excuse myself promptly to be able to make it back to the car in time, so Kate says she will just neck her drink and meet me back at parliament house.
Kate wont have to hurry.
The car is about 7 blocks away.
Parliament is 2.
I have to run 13 blocks to get to the same location that the rest of the crew only have to travel 2, so she has got time to finish her coffee in peace. Except for the fact that when I look for the car key to unlock so I can put the ticket on the dashboard, I find my pockets are empty, and its with Bec.
I message Bec.
Kate necks her coffee.
Nothing interesting happens, and were at parliament house. I feel like were going through customs. We have to strip down, everything gets scanned. But the people are nice. Its cool to see security guards who still seem to possess a level of genuinity and not-dickness. The other thing that surprised me was how many guards there were. That was crazy. Naturally, this is where the PM and all his mates work, and where other prominent punters come and hang out. Only makes sense.
Were pretty interested to check out the inner workings of the house, so we want to get on a tour. Fortunately there is still a tour left at 3:40pm. Unfortunately, its for french speakers, not english. We’re betting that we are going to be surrounded with french punters, and we are going to have to just smile, nod at the right time and try and recall a word that is ‘just on the tip of my tongue’, while inside I really have no idea what she is talking about.
I mean, the passes are free, so we take them anyway. I mean, we’ll still get the overall gist of what she is trying to say. There is about 12-15 of us all standing in the area where the tours start. I haven’t been paying attention as to who has been speaking English or not, so I really don’t how many other english-speaking battlers are also present.
The chick introduces herself, and then again in English. She’s pretty relaxed and you can see that she has the runs on the board. She asks for a show of hands as to who is french. Only 1 person raises their hand.
I would find out in about 15 mins that the french person is fluently bi-lingual anyway. This didn’t change the dynamic of the tour at all. We still all stood there completely helpless and unaware of any stories, jokes or slurs that were being made.
And she kept going.
Then did it again. It was absurd.
She was a nice enough chick, and every now and then, she will have said something prominent in french, and would be scanning the group looking for someone to offer up a suggestion in english as to what she is actually saying. Finally, a couple people would offer up a variety of suggestions, and among the suggestions, someone would emerge as the intellect among us and get one of the suggestions right.
To which, our guide would be ecstatic that someone was able to understand her hand’s gestures, more than the words coming from her mouth.
Why the hell she didn’t just speak in English, I will never know.
We wrap up the tour and explore the rest of the parliament house that we want to explore. We wanted to hear the senate debating something, so we went to the hall or whatever it is where they discuss everything.
We watched and listened through our translator-phones as a new amendment was accepted by the parliament. I was so bloody excited to actually watch laws being changed and amended, that when the senate started clapping, I started clapping too. I’m just getting involved with it all.
The guard didn’t appreciate that though. You’re not allowed to clap when you’re in the senate hall-thingy.
We have to cut our fun short and head back to the car. We say Cya to Kate and Patrick and we get on our way. Bec reads me my book while we drive. Partly to keep me occupied, and partly to stop her from being the “are we there yet?” 5 year old. It works. We reach Montreal by 8:30pm, and find ourselves buzzing apartment number 8.
For some unknown reason, it works on the 6th time, and the door unlocks. Being that this is our first couch surfing experience, I am totally unsure of the protocols that you’re meant to be following or what the done thing is, so I just kinda wing it.
We rock up, knock the door, and this easter-european looking bloke answers the door. This doesn’t look like the guy’s profile pic, but whatever. We get chatting, and turns out that he isn’t the bloke at all. The host is out for about another hour, but the other guy who is couch surfing kinda just sets us up. The guy we are staying with is named Mohammed. We get chatting with this polish fella who gives us all these tips and tricks for getting around Europe.
Finally Mo comes home, and he’s got this constant warm smile on his face. It’s not in your face, and its not a lazy smile. Its intentional, and its enough to feel like he actually is looking forward to hanging out.
He drops his gear, introduces himself, and just stands there, leant up against the wall, chatting to the 4 of the punters that he is putting up for the night. I really like the guy hey. He starts to tell us about his travels and that in the last 2 months, he has hosted nearly 90 couch surfers.
Its pretty friggin cool hey.
We chat, we drink and its a bloody great first couch surfing experience. The only thing that wasn’t great was that the 4th person staying with him was this asian chick, who ticked all the stereo types of Asians. She never looked us in the eyes. Sat glued to her phone the whole time. Never joined the conversations and just kinda went to sleep (I think). It was a bit weird.
Anyways. That isn’t the average part.
The average part was that she has nicked all the blankets. Bec and I fully didnt know what to do. As we were driving down, it clicked that we may have had to bring our own supply of warmth, but we weren’t sure.
I mean, Mo had us covered.
This other couch surfer did not.
We just layered right up and tried to cuddle. It was futile. The days in Montreal were a balmy -10 approx, so you can imagine how the nights went. We made it through that night on minimal sleep, and swore that we would be getting a sleeping bag the next day.
We needed a sleeping bag, cos the next night was -20 degrees.
Come back tomorrow,