Ben and I ventured to Canada in February for a welcome winter getaway, to explore Canada, and to spend time with my Aunt and Uncle who live in Nova Scotia.
We packed as much as possible into our 11 days there, by following a well-planned itinerary for exploring Montreal, trying to keep warm in Quebec City, testing our ski legs on the snowy hills of Quebec, and finally relaxing in Dartmouth. Read all about it…
Friday 24th February
On our first Canadian morning, our itinerary included strolling around the Downtown area, taking in the sights of the Old Port, and posing in front of the Notre Dame Basilica.
After walking almost every street in central Montreal, were lucky enough to stumble upon a cheese festival where we could sample lots of locally produced cheeses, including a fondue. That was lunch sorted!
The dish I had heard allots about was a Canadian speciality called Poutine. Strangely, this is made up of chips, gravy and cheese curds – so more like a drunken snack! It was delicious (if very naughty) and was justified by all the walking we were doing…
In the afternoon we went to Musée d’art Contemporain and Place des Arts and saw an exhibition, and then made our course back to the hotel along the main shopping street for some retail therapy.
Along with the cheese festival, we were also in Canada at the right time to visit the Lumiere Festival, or Festival of Lights in the Place des Arts area. This was fun to see; there were giant slides, curling competitions, a zip line, and a fire eating and dancing show.
We them stumbled upon a micro brewery called Brutopia for a dark lager, and then headed to Reubens to try one of their famous smoked meat sandwiches.
I would describe Montreal as a cross between New York and Paris! On one side of the city there are bright lights and long shopping streets, yet a few streets away the architecture is picturesque in the French style.
Montreal was VERY cold when we were there. Luckily, the Canadians have got this sussed, as the town has moved underground to get away from the snow!
There are underground shopping centres, and we found that there was usually a way to walk from place to place in the centre of town without coming above ground, using the subway stations and passages to their full advantage.
Saturday 25th February
After spending time Downtown the previous day, today we ventured north on the subway to the Uptown area of Montreal.
We first stopped at St Viateur for breakfast. St Viateur is known for its tasty, freshly baked bagels – and it didn’t disappoint!
Next, we went to Parc La Fontaine. The lake in the middle of the giant park freezes over and you can turn up to skate on it.
Unfortunately, regardless of the sub-zero degree temperatures at the time, the lake was closed for business as the ice wasn’t thick enough! So instead we enjoyed a stroll around the park and absorbed the picturesque snowy scenery.
Although that frozen lake was closed, we used our detective skills and found another natural ice rink at the Old Port.
Used to being overcharged in London, Ben and I were pleasantly surprised to discover that all we needed to do was rent ice skates, and we could use the frozen lake for as long as we wanted!
Not having crowds of people around me like I’ve become used to at the Christmas ice rinks at Somerset House and the Natural History Museum, I was free to skate and improve at my own pace.
We spent just over an hour on the ice, and by the end I was able to skate with both feet!
In the evening we went to a super cool bar that has just opened called Kampai Garden. From the road it looked like a small restaurant and bar decorated like a tropical garden, but out the back, there were pool tables, a basketball game, and four different bars.
It was a cool hangout for twenty-something montrealites, some of whom we made friends with when Ben challenged them at pool.
This was our last evening in Montreal. We had managed to pack lots in and didn’t leave much to do if we ever want a return visit! Montreal is a fun city, and with its mismatch of architecture, variety of shops and abundance of restaurants and bars it’s a great destination for foodies.
Sunday 26th February
We woke up early to wave Montreal goodbye and catch the first train to Quebec City, where we met Yvonne and Paul.
We had a mooch around Quebec City, got the Funicular to Chateau Frontenac and had a nice long lunch.
Quebec City is much prettier than Montreal, and more like a European city with its cobblestone streets, 17th and 18th century houses and classic cafes.
The Ice Hotel was amazing. Each room had been designed by a different sculptor, and some of the creations were unreal. The hours and hours that went into building the Ice Hotel seemed bittersweet knowing that it would eventually melt away!
I’ve watched too many James Bond films, and thought that the Ice Hotel would be a romantic and glamorous place to stay. However, after walking round the hotel and looking at the rooms and ice sculptures for over an hour, I discovered the reality: it’s bloody freezing!! I was chilled to the bone.
Not even the hot toddy in the Ice Bar could warm me up to a normal level of cool. The Ice Hotel was fun, but I don’t think I’ll be making a reservation to spend the night there any time soon! (Or ever!)
Monday 27th February
Today was our long-awaited first day of skiing. We went to Le Massif, a big ski hill in Quebec.
The scenery was beautiful. It looked like we could ski off the hill right down onto the St Lawrence River.
Tuesday 28th February
For our next day of skiing, we want to another nearby hill called Mont-Sainte-Anne. This was another great day skiing. Paul managed to take Ben and I down a black mogul slope which we weren’t too pleased with, but I guess it was good experience!?!?
On the side of one of the slopes was a sugar shack. A man came along with a jug of hot maple syrup, and poured it out in a line on the snow. Then it was our challenge to use a lolly stick and collect the maple as it began to solidify, and wrap it round the stick, so you were left with a delicious maple lolly! These were great, and we stopped back a couple of times for more!
Wednesday 1st March
Today we set out for the 10 hour drive to Nova Scotia. The plan was to stop in Wentworth for another day’s skiing, but unfortunately the conditions had turned slushy, so this wasn’t an option!
Thursday 2nd March
Back at Paul and Yvonne’s place in Dartmouth, we had time to chill out and relax after our busy days of sightseeing and skiing.
Paul took us on a car tour of the area, and we went to Peggy’s Cove, had a pub lunch at the Knot Pub, and walked around the quaint village of Lunenburg.
We stumbled across a gin distillery here, and I am now proud to say that I have the accolade of introducing Yvonne and Paul to adding a slice of grapefruit to a gin and tonic to give it a sweeter and more refreshing taste. Maybe il look for a new career as a cocktail connoisseur…
Friday 3rd March
I managed to go out for a few quick runs in the mornings. It was strange going out in thermals, a massive coat, a scarf and gloves, but it was good to keep some of my London Marathon training up!
After I’d warmed up, we headed out into Halifax for a walk around the town, past the port and for a coffee.
Saturday 4th March
It was our last day in Canada! Boooo.