Round the World Trip 2006/07
RTW Trip Update #1- Canada
09 Aug 2006
August 9, 2006, my family dropped me off at the airport and I don't think I've ever been so NERVOUS in my entire life. I guess its b/c I like the idea of order, for heaven sakes I PLAN for a living so this unknown bit is driving me crazy! I actually contemplated not going for a split second but realized that this is an opportunity of lifetime and I’m not crazy enough to give it up!
We made it to Toronto, Canada ready to take on the world. Backpacks in hand, I was already second-guessing the amt of luggage I brought along to accompany me for the yr and I only just began, flying 2 hrs east! Toronto is Canada's largest city, with a population of nearly 4 million ppl living in the Greater Toronto Area. The downtown area belies the true nature of Toronto, a massive collection of municipalities that stretches for miles in all directions. It’s southern edge borders on Lake Ontario, and the downtown core begins on Yonge St, stretching north for a couple of miles. YONGE STREET is the main thoroughfare, stretching for 1986 km’s; it’s officially recognized at the world’s longest street. The CN Tower, Sky dome, Union Station, and the Air Canada Centre are all close to the Lakeshore, with most of the key attractions located nearby. A particularly convenient feature of this city is known as the PATH, underground corridors where you can generally avoid the weather if you are walking around downtown.
We arrived in the TO airport, only to have Craig (my friend) anxiously awaiting our arrival before he showed us how to party TORONTO style! He took Kristen, Kasia and I out to the Drake hotel, supposedly this roof top lounge is the ‘hot spot’ on a Thursday night, for a few cocktails to celebrate our first night in TO. After an entertaining/late night out we wanted nothing more than to sleep in but instead woke up to the pleasant sound of the intercom blaring “it’s fire alarm testing day!” The noise was nothing short of a screeching, annoying and high-pitched voice that lasted for what seemed like ages and made it impossible to sleep.
As I left Wpg, I waved good-bye to my OWN vehicle (relax Wdowiak family, I’ll miss you too!) and hello to using the public transport systems each city has to offer. I realize that it’s not always going to be feasible to rent a car, so this “public” transportation is a reality and will be a mandatory part of my life for the next year; I guess I better just suck it up and get used to waiting, sleeping and carrying my belongings in the terminal waiting areas. We luckily had friends that could pick us up for the majority of our stay in this city but from time to time we’d hop on the subway when we wanted our independence.
Today was the day, we had our first subway experience with the destination point being Union Station (downtown TO) and arrived earlier than expected. I thought to myself, “maybe this won’t be so bad, at least there’s no such thing as ‘rush hr’ in a subway!” We took pictures of the CN tower and made it look like we actually went up, but it was too expensive for our liking so we kept continued on and ended up being asked to participate in the audience of the show "You Bet Your Ass" on the Comedy network. We made it to Yonge St where I've never seen so many hot dog stands in my life! We shopped and surprisingly never bought a single thing. It might have to do with the strict weight regulations on Zoom airlines and/or the thought of adding even 5 lbs to my backpack is a little frightening seeing as I’M the one that has to carry it!
Thursday night Craig surprised us with VIP treatment @ Brant House, sitting in the VIP booth next to Tie Domi. We all wondered why he decided not to bring his wife along; let’s just say I knew about his divorce long before it was confirmed in the newspaper! That night our private party consisted of high rollers + drinking fine wine/vodka, it was a night devoted to ‘US”…THANKS CRAIG!! The next morning was a tough one, but we managed to roll out of bed and Craig volunteered to drive us to Montreal which normally takes 5 hrs from Toronto, but ‘no worries’ we cleared it in 3 hrs with Craig's crazy driving.
Montreal, Canada’s 2nd largest city is not only unique to Canada but to North America as well, known for its rich historical and cultural blend of both the French + English. Located in southwestern Quebec, Montreal is actually located on an island in the St. Lawrence River. Access from the south is by one of three bridges while traffic from the east and west arrives via a number of different highway systems. Surrounded by water, with a wide variety of architecture from the past and the present, Montreal proved to be a very attractive city.
Since Canada is a bilingual nation, I was shocked to realize that all public signs are in French ONLY, a law that was implemented by a separatist political party who sadly never realized that the French culture is strong enough to survive without such rules.
Montreal is a trendy city with fashionable shops and friendly ppl. Crescent St was very popular with the 4 of us; it's a touristy area with lots of pubs, patios and fun times! We explored the island with our personal tour guide, Craig. He took us to his favorite/famous/memorable places including Le Plateau where he used to live, Mount Royale, Old Montreal, Notre Dame church, the sex district of St. Catherine's, the party area of St. Laurent and my personal favorite place, Le St. Sulpice (down St. Denis St.)
After being spoiled by Craig in our own private sweet @ The Clarion Hotel for 2 nights, living like movie stars, our real trip started....
Craig left us and we found the cheapest hotel we could find down St. Hebert. We didn't know this at the time but that's NOT where you want to be. We had 2 run-ins with the hotel manager (who suspiciously thought we where either selling illegal substances or our bodies to incoming customers), 2 police officer visits and with our balcony overlooking the perfect view of the crack heads, alcoholics, prostitutes and transvestites below I’m really not sure where to begin writing about the crazy adventures we experienced during this short time period. We had a bum + a transvestite fixing our car at the same time and, later the homeless guy almost took off in our vehicle!, some druggy that couldn’t leave us alone b/c she “loved us to much” (we started running away b/c she’d hug us and not let go) and transvestites completely flashing us. Whatever happened to the idea of personal space and humility! Now I know why the majority of washrooms in Montreal have blue lights, so you can't see you're veins!!
I was very partial to the city of Montreal and would visit again if given the opportunity. Shopping is expensive but stylish and the nightlife doesn’t stop. A weekly tradition that takes place every Sunday in Montreal is called Tam Tam. It’s a gathering of locals who meet up in the park to “hangout” + play instruments; this public affair is very unique to the city but with our time limitation we didn’t have the opportunity to attend this popular event.
Our overseas adventures will begin shortly; our next destination is LONDON, ENGLAND. This is my first time leaving the continent and I plan on staying out of Canada AS LONG AS POSSIBLE! Look out world here I come…
Locations Visited: Toronto , Montreal