5 September 2016

A road trip through the US of A - Part VIII: Canada

Liquid Canadian gold
We know Canada is not just another part of the United States. But as 11 out of 12 weeks of our North America road trip were in US territory, we decided to include our quick trip across the border under the same theme.

We hadn't crossed any land borders recently (the last one was between Laos and Vietnam) but everything went smoothly. Only one question at the border caught us a bit off-guard: where do you live currently? In order to keep things simple, we said Switzerland. Getting to Montreal from the border was a piece of cake.


Street art in Montreal
Finding a parking spot in one of the most popular areas of Montreal was not. But after about 30 minutes we found the perfect place where we could leave our car until early Monday morning. During our trip, we were always happy to see familiar faces. Especially the ones we had fond memories with. So we were happy to meet and get hosted by Tonya and her boyfriend Tony. We knew Tonya from Zurich, where she did her PhD. Now, she was at the local university for her postdoc.

After a short rest and a quick shower, she took us immediately on a tour through the neighborhood and the ongoing street festival/market where we of course had to buy some maple syrup. In the evening, we went for some Pho and fresh spring rolls, as we were missing Vietnamese food. Upon arrival, we were sweating, as it was a rather hot (28-30 degrees) and humid late spring day. After a thunderstorm during the night with heavy rainfall, we were shivering when getting up the next morning. The thermometer showed us why: 10 degrees only. Welcome to the Canadian summer!

Montreal food
So we were in no hurry at all to leave the cozy appartment of Tonya and Tony. We had a delicious and long brunch, before we finally managed to get ready to do some sightseeing. Four hours of walking around downtown Montreal were enough to convince us that this city is indeed worth a second visit. But we were a bit cold and my ankle still only slowly getting better. So we finally went into a bar for some happy hour beer and poutine.

The next day, it was still rainy and cold, we drove to Toronto. Officially, this takes you six hours. But if you include a few toilet, coffee and food breaks, it keeps you occupied most of the day. Compared to the US, traffic was calm and civilized, even on this probably busiest intercity route in Canada. We arrived right on time in Mississauga, Ontario (just next to Toronto), where our next host lives.

Toronto university
Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities of the world and so it was no surprise that a german girl answered our open couch request. We spent a few fun days with Vera. We spent one full day exploring downtown, including Toronto University which is often used in movies to simulate Harvard. And another day to go shopping, as our flight back to Switzerland was getting closer.

After a week in Canada, we came to two conclusions: First, we haven't seen enough of Canada so far. There are still at least two more parts we need to explore. The far east, meaning pretty much everything east of Montreal and the far west, including Vancover and the vast mountainous wilderness areas of British Columbia (and Yukon). And secondly, that Canada today
Niagara Falls
is more like the stereotypical American Dream that we always heard of. While large parts of the USA are in decline, racism and xenophobia are on the rise and the country as a whoel hostage to a political party undermined by religious and market extremists, it seems that in Canada it's still possible to build up your own life without risking your life in the process.

We left Canada after visiting the mighty Niagara Falls. And here again, the differences between Canada and the US become very obvious. While Canada advertizes the Falls moderately, they are promoted in the USA like they'd be nothing short of the most important natural wonder of the whole planet. But after visiting the Falls on the Canadian side, the American one is quite disappointing. The Falls feel much closer, bigger and impressive seen from the Canadian side.

More pictures from our road trip though Canada

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