Oh Canada!

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Bonjour! Welcome to the Canada story of the blog. The journey I’m on is about going to each of the 50 states, seeing gyms, seeing breweries, meeting owners, seeing sights, and meeting the great people that make up the nation of the United States! Well, I’ve never been to Canada before so I figured this exploratory journey would be as good of a time as ever to make that happen!

I was in Vermont struggling to get the last brewery and Sundays tend to be difficult to get ahold of people. I was chatting with my parents and my Dad suggested to head up to Canada on that Sunday. I had been waiting to go with a friend, but they recently told me they wouldn’t be able to go. I hadn’t thought about the idea of switching my Canada timeline around. It sounded good to me!

Prior to getting into the juicy part of the Canada experience, there is some commentary. Perhaps the avid reader of the blogs has noticed a theme with me, poor planning. It’s not that I’m an awful planner all the time, more so I create a general plan and unless it’s something important such as work related or monumental events, I’d rather not go through the effort.

My very general plan was to cruise into Montreal from Vermont. Find a place to stay and go from there. I asked some friends for good spots and heard Schwartz had good Fairmont bagels and smoked meat, La Banquise has poutine, and find a beavertail somewhere. Also, worth going to Biodome, Chinatown, and underground mall. I thought they sounded like great suggestions.

I drove into Canada which went smooth. I saw some places and figured I should get some money so I’d be able to get my grub on. It was about 11 am as I spent some time trying to set up some meetings with gym and brewery owners in New Hampshire and Maine prior to departure for Canada. I had pondered the idea of trying to get 1 gym owner and 1 brewery owner in Montreal but thought I’d rather just have a jolly time and not worry about trying to get WiFi to check messages.

Going into Canada I knew the drill of turning off my mobile data and going airplane mode. This way I wouldn’t be charged a ridiculous amount. At one spot, I used some WiFi and then Verizon sent me a message saying my plan included Canada. I had no idea! I suppose I could’ve looked before leaving but thought 1 day away beside WiFi really isn’t a big deal. I then went to use it, as it would make things more convenient, but then it said it would charge me a lot. I didn’t know which was right and didn’t care to test it. I knew one way or another I’d figure things out.

Prior to me getting that text message was me trying to get into the city. I realized I had no hard plan at 1:30 pm. I thought if I was going to stay at a hotel it should be one where I get points per usual and the free Starbucks gift card. Seemed like an obvious decision, which if I was wiser I would’ve made earlier and looked up directions. Alas, that was not the case so I took a random exit to drive around.

Navigating the city of Montreal wasn’t too bad. Some city drivers were bad as happens in most cities but I got around fine. After a while, there was some frustration. I was hungry. I wanted to be enjoying my time instead of driving aimlessly around. I couldn’t find my hotel. Go figure, it’s tough to find something in a city where you’ve never been before and there’s a lot of places.

I decided to find a Starbucks, use the WiFi and look up directions to a hotel. Not sure why, but my phone was not happy about this attempt. It said the connection was not secure. I know that. I also know I’m just trying to get directions. That is all. After some more frustrations, and higher hunger levels, I found some other WiFi and took a screen shot of the directions. I was on my way!

As I was driving I thought, often hotel check in is at 3 pm, so really getting there earlier may be useless. I would try to get an early check in or at least park my car in the parking lot though and move on. I followed the directions and got to a neighborhood, but not a hotel. I decided to foot it. I’d try to find a pub and get a pint while asking for help finding the dang hotel. Lofty ideas I had.

I ended up walking blocks and blocks not finding anything that sold beer. Just a couple, ok looking restaurants, but they were akin to Chinese fast food types. Nothing to sit at a bar or even intriguing looking, yummy food to get after. I was parched and got a cherry soda from a convenience store which was nice. I realized after I didn’t know open liquor laws, so maybe I could’ve gotten a beer but oh well. I still couldn’t find a pub. I thought, isn’t Canada known for beer drinking? I suppose I was smack middle of a residential zoned area. After more walking, I happened to walk right next to the hotel!

Trying to book the hotel, I was told triple A didn’t give me a discount. Then the cheaper of 2 rooms available had just been booked as we were talking. I’m not quite sure if it was true or a trick to get me to pay more, but I felt much better when the man helping me said he’d discount the room down to the other room’s price. Once I got my stuff in, it was time to head on the metro to downtown. Well, first I got a beer in the restaurant so I wouldn’t be so eager and I could sort of plan. I decided to take the metro to the farthest downtown stop according to the hotel receptionist. Then I’d figure it out from there.

Traveling on public transportation isn’t hard, but I always need a few moments to get used to the system regarding how to pay and how things all work. I made my way to the metro and got off as planned. Walking I saw a cathedral, perhaps the one I had been told about. I also saw a building that said brewery so that was a no brainer. I walked on over and realized it wasn’t an actual brewery. I’m not sure if it was at one point or not but currently it seemed to be a place to serve some food to people who are less fortunate. From there I walked around more, saw the cathedral and another building that had an indoor ice rink. I wasn’t really sure where I was going, just figured wandering around until I came across something would work. It did!

IMG_4531I found a place called Bier Markt which had numerous beers on tap. I got a glass which was a nice size and ordered up some poutine. Upon my looking around I saw some empty 1-liter steins. When I was searching for my hotel earlier I thought it’d be nice to have a liter of beer. Good for such a trip. Then Bam! There it was! I got that ordered up, had a photo op and enjoyed the food and beer. I then chatted with the bartenders a bit and found out there was a good brewery not too far. After learning from my previous mishaps, I asked which stop exactly off the metro and how to get to the metro station. I gave them my mercy and was off.

It was all smooth as I made my way to the brewery. I came across a sports bar first and figured I might as well pop in there first. It was nearly empty but the bartender said they were open. I got a pint and chatted with him. He told me there were two breweries, just up the road which would be easy to find. He gave me the crossroads as well just to make sure. Since we were chatting and there was a pool table, I asked him if he wanted to see a pool trick. There is a trick I know regarding a certain way of spinning the rack. If done correctly it’s smooth, if not, it can smack you. I warned him and he still did it but with a small smack followed by laughs on both sides. Before departing I got him in a selfie with me, making it more fun than just a pic of me.

As I made my way to the first brewery Dieu du Ciel, I met two guys walking and chatted with them. They were nice but didn’t seem to want a new friend so I walked up to the bar while they got a table. After a bit, an American sat by me and we chatted. She was there for work and asked what brought me there. I told her it was quite the story and asked if she wanted to hear it all. She did and so I told her about the Lift N Brews journey! The beer was good, nothing remarkable, the imperial stout was good in particular but not better than great beer we have in the USA. My new friend was a little under the weather and had work the next day so she went home and I finished my beer before heading to the second brewery and my last destination before home.

At the second brewery, Siboire I got another flight and had a good red and stout. The manager was a good guy, getting work done but also willing to jump in and help the staff as needed. I told him it was nice to see someone with such an approach. Keeping up with the selfie theme from earlier I got another one with this guy in it too. Then it was time to head to the hotel. I’m not sure if I got off on the wrong stop or went through the wrong door but all I know is that I wasn’t where I thought I was. I walked around a bit and luckily due to my earlier walking I was able to figure out where I was and how to return to the hotel. I was exhausted from the day and ready to hit the hay.

The next morning, I slept in which was nice. Breakfast which I normally go to town on was lackluster as the options weren’t great and there were a lot of people. I snagged some juice and fruit before getting back to get cleaned up. I looked up directions with WiFi before I left which was smart. What was the opposite of smart was forgetting I did that. What a knuckleheaded mistake.

I headed out and got on the 15 freeway. Freeway or highway or interstate, let us not get caught up on those details. Basically, I was heading south and then saw a sign for Toronto. The day prior as I entered Montreal, not sure which exit to take I saw Toronto towards the end of the city and knew it was to the west. Therefore, it made sense to abort that south route for the north. I then asked directions and paid far worse attention than I should’ve. It seemed simple enough. As I drove 40 east wondering if I had gone too far, I thought if I had another person it’d be better, before recalling a time when a friend and I went hiking and some guy told us directions.

The guy had talked for 10 minutes about different routes and directions, which frankly was about 9 more minutes than I thought he was going to talk. My attention was not prepped for that, but I thought my friend knew the way. In reality, we were in the same boat. So here I was in Canada, living another of not learning from the past, not practicing the focus skills I’ve taught. May you learn from my mistakes.

I drove on and thought at some point there would be a chance to go south. Then the radio changed to a French speaking station. That wasn’t a good sign as I’ve had the same station from start of the journey. Meanwhile, the pace of travel was 100km/hr. which is slow, about 60 miles/hour. 20 more miles per hour faster would’ve been more appropriate. Anyways I exit to get some directions and get my grub on.

I saw a restaurant named Mikes. I had 16 Canadian dollars. The extra big with lots of meat as I unofficially describe it, poutine was for 10, or 9,99. I ordered that up after checking that with tax it was still within the meal plus tip amount. I asked for help to Vermont. My waitress pulled in assistance. I took notes on the phone. I was ready to go. Well, first I had to not burn my mouth from the poutine which was hard as it was good and I hungry.

After burning my mouth from the hot food and then wondering why I never learn, I scarfed down the good poutine. Well scarfed is a little too accelerated, more accurate was blowing on food, mixing it up, hoping it could cool down faster. The nerve, getting fresh hot food like this! Finally, I finished it, which had an odd aura of people being surprised I left no scrapes and did so with such speed. Perhaps it was just my imagination, but it still felt that way.

I drove off on route home! I kept my eyes open and didn’t see the exit. Perhaps my eyes were open but mentally I was in my own world thinking about my Canada experience. Luckily, I knew it would connect with the 15. So, in summary, it was about 2 hours or a little more since I first left my hotel and I saw it outside my window driving by it. This time I knew the route, saw Toronto was another freeway that broke off and my drive back couldn’t have been smoother.

I could’ve been annoyed, frustrated and then some. I was a bit. When I drove by my hotel I laughed. I laughed because it was so silly of me to have those types of issues. Then I realized that not planning can add much more time and hassle to an experience. At the same time, I was able to figure it out. There is victory in that as well. Regardless of the circumstances, I could find a way to keep moving forward. Each of which are lessons to bring with me in the future.

Merci!


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