Favourite Roadtrip Memories

Looking for dinosaurs in the Badlands, AB  Kayaking in Caliper Lake Provincial ParkMining for Amethyst in Thunder Bay, ONThe amazing sunsets in Sleeping Giant NPExploring Beautiful MontrealSwimming and Sunbathing in Shediac, NBLighthouse trail on Gaspiesie PeninsulaExploring the Maritimes in Nova ScotiaDriving the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton IsExploring Grassy Point in North SydneySeeint Whales and exploring St John’s, NFTracing heritage and hiking on Fogo IslandExploring Gros Morne National Park Ancient Pictographs in Lake Superior.Passing the centre of CanadaThe beautiful Prairies of SK & Manitoba

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Couchsurfing – the best way to travel!

‘The website provides a platform for members to stay as a guest at someone’s home (homestay), host travellers, meet other members, or join an event. Unlike many hospitality services, Couchsurfing is an example of the gift economy; there is no monetary exchange between members and there is no expectation by hosts for future rewards’ – Wikipedia

Couchsurfing is a great way to travel, to some the only way.

I’ve spent years travelling since I left my hometown in 1999 and have been to 25 countries and lived in 4. I have stayed in 5 star hotels, motels, hostels, B&Bs, camping grounds, AirB&Bs and Walmart parking lots but I think Couchsurfing is the best. My 20th birthday at Dougies Backpackers in Port Douglas in 2000. Who are these people? 

Yes, you get to see the city/town you came to visit and in hostels you normally meet some fun people but it takes a local to show you their hometown for it to be an extra special experience. A treasured memory. Folks jamming at out host Chris’s mother’s birthday BBQ in Port Alberti. 2016

The local ‘hole on the wall’ eateries you would probably otherwise walk straight past but if you are in the know you will go in and experience the city’s most amazing cuisine. The secret local’s lookouts most tourists never view the city from, getting into attractions cheap or free because your host knows someone who works there, a tour driver, a dinner companion, a kareoke partner, a friend. Couchsurfing photos on my profile

We have couchsurfed in the following places so far, Victoria, Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Calgary, Medicine Hat, Sudbury, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City and all of them have been great experiences. Some lived alone, some had other couchsurfes and family staying at the same time, many had cats, some had dogs, some had children, some partied with us, some took us for dinner, some were hardly there and some were always there. Each and every experience has been different. A friendly cat in Montreal

You really have to go in with an open mind though, you never know what the host’s expectations may be despite what it says on their profile. If you just feel like chilling and being alone, don’t book a place on Couchsurfing as the host may well have plans to take you to dinner or show you around their town.

So go to https://www.couchsurfing.com/ today and sign up. It’s £13 per year to join but it’s so worth it, you save money after the very first time you stay with someone.

If you go in with an open mind anything is possible, that’s why we travel right?

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Day 21 – Hubbards to Halifax

Made spam and egg rolls for breakfast and were on our way around 11. Such a lovely place to stay, if you are ever in the area see if the Rustic Cabin in Hubbards is available on Air B&B. I highly recommend it.Headed to Blue Rocks which is just outside Lunenburg for a look first thing. My manager at Brewster’s Mountain Lodge in Banff grew up in Lunenburg so very kindly wrote out some recommendations for us which we basically planned our day around! 

Blue Rocks is a small fishing village but various artists live there too due to its beauty. It’s a great spot for kayaking and just like Peggy’s cove the day before, thick coastal fog rolled in while we were there, you can see it in the pictures below.Lunenberg was our next stop and lunch was on the cards! It was a bit of a nightmare getting parking as town was so busy, found a spot on a residential street a few streets away from the Main Street after about 30 minutes of circling. Lunenburg is another fishing village located on the Fairhaven Peninsula at the western side of Mahone Bay. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Its won most beautiful small town in Canada, Prettiest Painted Places in Canada and Port City of the Year so it worth going for a visit I’d say!

The buildings were all neatly and colourfully painted and had lush green lawns and gardens or flower boxes adorning thei windows. The streets were clean and contained cute shop signs enticing you in to the many gift shops and clothing stores. We headed down to the jetty for a look at the boats moored up. They say, Lunenburg is a holiday destination for the wealthy and by the look of some of the yachts moored there is say that us very true! There were some beautiful saitboays there full of deckhands cleaning and getting prepared for he next voyage.Didnt have much trouble finding the Grand Banker, the building is bright Aqua and overlooks the docks. This place was also recommended by Adam and it was started by a Lunenburger is 1996 and is now also run by Lunenburger so that was an attraction too, keep it local I always say. The menu is great and it’s always a good thing when you have a lot of trouble deciding. We both went for the Po Boy fish sandwich which was amazing! I could have had a second one for dinner it was so good! 

Went to a few gift shops and wandered around town before heading off to Ovens Natural Park.  Ovens is a 190 acre privately owned park that contains a camping ground, restaurant, shop, petting zoo, cliff trail and gold panning. It was also the site of a gold rush over a century ago.

We paid $23 to get in and did the cave and cliff self guided tour. 

Tour explanation: Experience the Park’s fascinating gold rush history, unique geology and diverse coastal environment as you enjoy our self-guided tour along the beautiful sea cliff trail that leads to the famous Ovens Sea caves. High points of the tour are the visits to Tucker’s Tunnel, the overlook at Indian Cave and finally, spectacular Cannon Cave, where you will be able to hear the resounding boom created as the waves enter the cavern. 

The trail was pretty cool and it was so nice to feel the ocean breeze and spray from the water rushing in and out of the caves on your face, it was such a hot day.Avter visiting the caves we hotfooted it to Halifax to our Couchsurfing host’s flat. 

Serena is a 21 year old uni student. Her flatmate was away in Toronto so we had her room. There are also 2 kittens in the flat, Tilda and Bear. The house is big and in a lovely street about a 30 minute walk to town.We all went out to a bar called Freemans and had some drinks with Serena and a bunch of her uni friends. They were all lovely and liked to tell us about Halifax and what to see & do.Fergus and I carried on to an Irish pub in town called The Halifax Alehouse. Met locals, drank and danced until about 4am. It was fun but spent way too much money and it was definately a night to remember!

Day 16 – Quebec City to Rivière-du-Loup

We started our day with a breakfast of chicken noodles (yes I know that’s bad) that I had been carrying around in my rucksack for days.  Drove to a car park in town and paid $18 for 24 hours. The cheapest way as we had no idea how long we would be.

Walked up a steep street to Old Quebec which covers an area of 1.4 km. In 1985 it was declared a World Heritage Site and you can certainly see why. 

Office Buildings, busy streets and chain restaurants makeway for quaint French style cafes with hanging baskets and terraces, boutiques with brightly coloured awnings, art galleries with painted city scenes, squares containing statues of the citys founding fathers and fountains and of course, souvineer shops containing tacky Chinese made wares. Old Quebec really is a lovely area, I could have spent hours browsing the stores had I not been on such a strict budget. I considered buying a lovely print of the city in the Fall but it probably would have been ruined on our travels, maybe we will return on our way back to Banff?

The place I was really keen to see was the Château Frontenac. A famous Fairmont Hotel that is the most photographed hotel on the planet. It is very spectacular indeed and it must cost a small fortune to stay there, but for me, it doesn’t compare to the Fairmont Banff Springs. The castle in the mountains has a special place in my heart and in my opinion it’s just as grand.Wandered along the boardwalk outside the hotel watching tourists go about their day, street performers trying their best to secure loose change, water taxis ferry people from shore to shore across the wide river and people sunning themselves on the moored cruise ships, it was very hot and humid so I don’t blame them really.Walked up another steep embankment to the La Citedelle de Quebec which is an active military base as well as the official residence of the Canadian Monarch and the Govenor General of Canada.   There were free tours that took you around the barracks and Museam but we weren’t that interested so had a quick look around before heading down to the Funiculor.​​I’ve been on heaps of Funiculors in Europe, but they always give me the slight heebee geebies, this one was $3 for a 30 second ride. Easy peasy. We ended up on the nicest street in the old city (according to a friendly city representative we spoke to nearby) called Rue du petit Champlain. And it was very nice, again, just like the city streets of Europe.  Went to a creperie called Le Casse-Crêpe Breton for lunch and we assumed the place was quite popular due to the queue outside. After about 20 minitues we were seated inside the busy restaurant. After ordering we then waited nearly 35 minutes for our meals. We learned later that they o lay had 2 crepe hotplates a one girl making all of them so that is why it took so long! I had a cheese, mushroom and ham crepe with a salad, it was really good but the wait was far too long. Returned to Jean’s and collected our gear, played with the kitten for a while and hit the road again.Headed North-East towards the Gaspiesie Peninsula and getting out of the city was a bit of a nightmare but we were soon on the motorway to Rivière-du-Loup where Fergus had booked a Hi Hostal for the night. It was Fergus’s birthday so he wanted to sleep in a comfy bed for the night. 

Arrived around 7pm and checked in and went and got some wine. Sat outside on the veranda of the huge, old, white wood house and wrote my blog, caught up on my emails and chatted to fellow guests. 

Went up to a fire someone had started and chatted to the other guests well into the night.

Day 15 – Montreal to Quebec

Left Montreal late after doing a bit of shopping in Westmount and having breakfast. 

Drove about 2.5 hours to Quebec City. Not much to see on the way we drove, it was a lot like motorways in the UK, trees on either side of the motorway giving way to fields in places but mainly straight and flat. Getting into the city was easy and our host, Jean’s place was just off the main road into town. 

He lives in a 2.5 bedroom new-build, modern flat in a quiet area at the foot of a steep hill. We unpacked our gear and went out for dinner. Walked up the very steep hill where Jean told us his personal trainer takes him to train. Sounds like too much hard work to me! Chatted and he told us about the city. Went to a lovely French restaurant on Boulevard Rene-Levesque called Cochin Dingue. I was difficult and had 2 starters, steak with satay sauce and grilled cheese & salad. It was very good and I haven’t had satay aside in years, I’d forgotten how good it was!

Jean very kindly paid for our meal which we were not expecting but incredibly thankful for. We are so very lucky.

After our wonderful dinner, Jean took us to one of his favourite spots that he takes friends and family when they visit Quebec. Chocotats Favoris a legendary ice cream shop like no other I have ever visited. You choose a size, flavour of ice cream, type of chocolate dip and then your topping. The topping is nothing like ice magic either, it’s about 2cm thick! Overindulgence at its finest!Walked back to Jean’s for a nightcap and saw a lovely sunset on the way down the hill.

Montreal – a bit of Europe in Canada

I’ve always known there is a French speaking park of Canada but just how similar that area is to France I didn’t know. Being in Montreal was just like being back in Europe for a long weekend. We love Montreal, it’s a vibrant and energetic city. Started the day with a healthy breakfast of Avacado, Tomato, Omlette, Bread and Hummus before catching the Metro to Parc Jean-Drapeau to start our day of sightseeing at the Biosphere which is a dedicated to the environment. What an amazing structure! It’s huge at 76 metres high and you can see it from miles away. It used to be enclosed but after a fire, all that remained was the steel frame. We didn’t go inside but outside were a lovely series of photographs of places all over Canada. A lot we have now visited and a lot we now want to see, it’s such a diverse and beautiful country, I really have fallen in love with this place.Next on our days itinerary was the Biodome.  This was built for the 1976 Olympic Games and hosted the cycling and judo events. Now it makes up part of the largest natural science complex in Canada. There are 4 separate ecosystems inside:

  • The Tropical Forest is a replica of the South American rainforest.
  • The Laurentian Forest is a replica of the North American wilderness.
  • The Saint Lawrence Marine Eco-system is an estuary habitat modelled on the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.​
  • The Sub-Polar Region is a habitat that is divided into Arctic and Antarctic.

We spent hours in there just watching the different animals and birds in there different habitats. Just fascinating.
We then caught the Metro to a restaurant a friend from London had recommended to us which looked amazing. Schwartz’s is a famous sandwich shop that specialised in smoked meat. Openened in 1928 by a Romanian immigrant it was featured on the Food Network‘s ‘You gotta eat here’ and is a Montreal institution. There was a queue outside when we arrived but only after 10 minutes or so we got in, anyone getting take out was quite fast so it was moving along nicely. Sat with 4 others on a shared table. The place was packed, but our food came out really fast. Ordered a meat sandwich each and shared fries and a pickle. It was all hustle and bustle and families and couples chatting and laughing, a great city atmosphere.It was probably the biggest ‘just meat’ sandwich I have ever had, it was lean and juicy and I can understand why the place is so popular. 

Got a bit lost wandering around the city looking for the Circus Festival as we were unable to connect to the city’s free wifi but eventually found it. 

The street was alive with performances from acrobatics to tightrope walking displays and people walking about with fishbowls on their heads. The most impressive performance was ‘Red‘ which saw dancers preform on a large stage made of shipping containers with aerial acrobatics and both techno and classical music. ​​​Made our way back to Valerie’s and had a long chat with her before retirin to bed after a long, exhausting but very fun day. 

Day 13 – Ottawa to Montréal

Woke up super early because we had to be out of the house before our host Terri departed for work. Went to Tim Hortons for breakfast and to use the wi-fi to find a laundrette nearby. We have 12 days worth of clothes, sheets and towels to wash so it was high time we stopped having so much fun and got on with some chores. 

Left the city and drove the 2 hours to Montreal. When we crossed the border into Quebec the English signs disappeared making way for French. We pondered why in Ottawa and other provences they have English and French on their road signs but in Quebec it’s only French yet 21% of the population are native English speakers and 51% are bilingual. 

Visited some services for lunch and went to an information centre inside. The lady there was very helpful and gave us tips on Montreal and Quebec City and told us about a region we were going to completely miss but have now decided to shorten our time in Quebec City to explore. Pays to ask. 

Upon reaching to city we decide to drive up to Mount Royal, a large park sitting on a volcanic mound overlooking the city of Montreal. We visited the Mount Royal Chalet where we enjoyed a fantastic view over a city I had no idea it was so big. Wandered through the forest to the Mount Royal Cross where we sat and watched Squirrels play. Drove back through the suburbs of  Montreal to our Couchsurfing host’s home. We passed huge, beautiful, European looking houses on leafy streets, cute high streets and large parks before arriving at Rue Sherbrooke West. Valerie was not home when we arrived so we unpacked, changed and headed out into the city. Got a bit lost looking for the Metro initially but found astation only a couple of blocks away from the flat and purchased a day pass for $10 each. The network isn’t big so we will find our way around quite easily…I hope. Left the train at Place-D’Armes and wandered up to the Basilique Notre Dame de Montreal. Unfortunately it was closed so we headed down Rue Saint-Paul where we came across a busy European street scene of cafes, restaurants, bars, souvenir shops and tourists wondering what continent they were on. It’s so European and reminded us of Paris and the streets of Prague or Brussels.Wandered around the Place Jacques Cartier for a bit, considered getting a caricature done but decided it would probably get ruined and headed off to find a cheap place to eat.Funnily enough instead of going for French, Italian or Spanish Tapas, which there were plenty of in the area we opted to head to Chinatown and get Vietnamese food. Went to Pho Bang New York and had Tonkiniose Grilled Chicken soup and spring rolls. It was only $10 and I got a huge bowl. Fergus had Beef with Vermicilli noodles.Made out way back to Valerie’s and when we arrived she was having dinner with a friend. Had an interesting chat about travel,  couchsurfing, babies and all sorts of things. 

Valerie moved from France to Canada 25 years ago, is a translator for an accounting firm, has 2 daughters and enjoys, swing dancing and swimming. She is a lovely, very chilled out and beautiful woman. Her flat is very French. Mostly white with lots of clutter, but it’s cool clutter. Picture frames and easels, sarongs, glass jars and chess sets, lots of books, artwork and plants. She also has 2 very friendly cats. 

Day 11 – Petawawa to Ottawa

Hung around the campsite for a bit using the free wifi, rearranging the car (actually put the back seats back up as we won’t be car camping for at least 4 days) and milling about. Went to the beach for a look and headed to KFC (or PFK in French!)Both got a 4 piece pack with 4 pieces of chicken, chips gravy and a drink. Yes I know that’s piggy but we don’t have KFC in Banff so it was a real treat. Carried on East towards Ottawa. It was only a short 2 hour drive so we took our time as we didn’t need to be in Ottawa until 4pm.

The weather was mostly sunny en route but about 20k from the city a huge cloud came in and it absolutely bucketed down, so much so we could hardly see the road!Made it to our Couchsurfing host Terri’s house around 3 and parked on the road opposite her house and walked into town. Walked along the river in the hot, humid weather, past bridges, a Blues festival and skyscrapers to the Parliament Buildings. Compared to European Buildings we have seen they weren’t all that impressive but it was nice to see where all the important decisions are made for our wonderful temporary home. With Canada (and NZ/OZ for that matter) being so young, when they talk about historical places and buildings it makes you appreciate the history in London and the UK a lot more as ‘old’ in England is a whole different ballgame really.Walked back to Terri’s and met her and her friend Heather in the backyard enjoying a mojito. Had a beer and chatted before moving inside to avoid the rain.

We were very spoilt, enjoyed some grilled haloumi and Terri’s homemade pickled beans and onions for starters before goats cheese and mushrooms rolled in Pork Tenderloin with feta salad and broccoli. Definately the best meal I’ve had in a long time and totally unexpected. Chatted about Ottawa, travel, Couchsurfing, work and life in general. Terri is obviously a foodie, the meal was just fab and we had prosecco to start followed by red with our main. Her pickles were amazing and to think we were just going to have noodles for dinner! 

Fergus and I washed up, said goodbye to Heather and went to sleep on the fold out sofa around 11pm. We are very lucky people indeed. 

I hope one day we can host travellers with the same hospitality we received that night. 

Day 9 – Sault Ste. Marie to Sudbury

Today wasn’t too exciting really, driving wise. Checked out of Pine Grove bang on 11 and headed to Canadian Tire to get a new cooker. Managed to get one for $44 so I hope it’s as good as our old Colman bless its heart. Continued East through small lakeside villages and First Nations communities on the mostly flat road. Didn’t come across to much roadworks today, unlike yesterday where we were forever running into the orange and black cones. 

Stopped for lunch in a cute wee town called Thessalon. Right on the bay, it had a river seperating it in two and had a long peninsula stretching out into Lake Huron. Stopped by Jo-Anna’s bakery & cafe and got a homemade sandwich each. Went and had a look ad the lovely houses then went to a beach along the peninsula to eat. It was the best egg sarnie I have had in ages! Fresh, soft bread and an incredible creamy egg filling. Yummy! Carried on East and by this time there were big black clouds in the sky so we knew rain was on its way and we were quite glad we weren’t camping that night!​

​Once the rain came it came hard! Listened to a very interesting Stephen Fry audio book which was very funny and a nice chance from music to be honest. 

Carried on into Sudbury where the rain stopped and we found our host, Audrey’s home. Audrey is 36 and has 2 children, Eve and Caleb who were there when we arrived. The house is a large bungalow style home across from a school and is on a road not too far from the motorway.

Sat and chatted for a while and had a couple of Twisted Teas before ordering a pizza. When it came to the door Audrey wouldn’t accept any money from us so that was an unexpected but very welcomed treat.

We all clambered in the car and spent the next hour or so driving around town looking at tourist spots. Sudbury is surrounded by a number of Nikel mines and there are huge chimneys and factories all over town. As we drove down the road Audrey pointed out things of interest and had a lot of knowledge about her adopted hometown. Visited the Big Nikel, a 9 metre high replica of the Canadian Nikel and got some photos.Also went to Bell park to check out the beach and drove over to the university sector on the other side of the bay and then up to a Lookout where we saw a load of statues and a maze.Returned to the house and chatted, had a drink and chilled. I learned Audrey is studying nursing, her boyfriend is in a yoyo team, and he also has 2 children and they have a foster daughter there too (who I met later on) so it’s a busy household. It’s people like her that are the reason I love Couchsurfing, you enter a stranger’s home and upon leaving you are friends. 

In a world full of negativity and distrust it’s so nice to meet caring and giving people who are interested in sharing their lives with you and hearing about yours. Everyone should experience Couchsurfing.