[travelthursday] The end of the road

Last weekend I went to the end of the road and came back. And by the end of the road I mean I stared death in the eyes and survived…and I also went to the end of the road – highway 50 ends in roadblocks and a do not enter sign right after the turn off for the rafting place, and if you look at Google maps you will see Highway 50 literally just…ends.

Highway 50 ends near rouge riverWe had planned to camp the night before rafting, and I was prepared to rough it. To my surprise, Nouveau Monde‘s idea of “roughing it” involves a restaurant/bar, a swimming pool with poolside bar, a jacuzzi and a volleyball court. We roll up to the camp site and see in the parking lot a guy selling firewood. Perfect! We don’t even have to go to the store to get any. Unfortunately, he tells us in an indistinguishable (to us North Americans anyway) accent (is he an Aussie, a Brit, South African…?) that each bundle is $10. No thank you.

My friend Nina and I go in search of firewood (and something to cook over our camp fire!) and pass by a guy building a house. We noticed a big pile of chopped wood (as if he had recently cut down a tree just to get it out of the way) so we stopped by and asked if we could relieve him of the wood. Turns out the (very Québecois) man is building the house along with his 7 brothers, son, and nephew and they’re nearly finished! He said we could take all the wood we want, and even led us to a pile of scrap construction wood and helped us pile it all in the car. We returned to the campsite triumphant, proudly carrying the wood past the wood-seller (who we found out is from Worcester, England)’s truck, only to realize we’d failed in our main mission – pick up Liam from nearby town Montebello and transport him to the campsite.

An hour and a trip through the parking lot of the “Castle” of Montebello later, we have food, firewood, and good friends hanging round the campfire. There was a beautiful pathway built of wooden planks that snaked through the campsite. In the dark, it was hard to tell, but there was a slat missing halfway to our particular site. We joked that someone must have taken it for firewood. The next morning we were cleaning up our area and noticed that a piece of our firewood (or rather, the remains of it) had a couple of nails sticking out of it and was about the size of a slat for the walkway…whoops!

An 8 am breakfast was included in our coupon (did I mention this whole thing was only $45 from Groupon!?) and we rolled out of our tents and up to the lodge to stand in a food line reminiscent of middle school lunch-time for a choice of eggs or French toast. I should also mention that as luck would have it, I was recently gifted two amazing tents from friends of friends Matt and Joanne, who didn’t need them anymore, saving me from an investment I can’t make at the moment.

After breakfast, we filled out our forms, fussed over wetsuits/booties/just wearing a bathing suit, then piled onto an old school bus with helmets, life-jackets and paddles in hand. We arrive at the launch point and discover that our guide is a Québecois guy who goes by the name Sou and has green plastic grass duct-taped to his helmet. Looks like we won the cool-guide lottery [insert witty allusion to Johnny Cash song, Boy Named Sue]. He starts off the trip by telling us that rules are made to be “used and abused.” He definitely followed that philosophy during most of the run, letting us “surf” in rapids two or three times in a row, as other rafts just kept floating downstream. At one point, he let us sit in the rapid for so long that the other rafts behind us started to line up, and we got several angry glares.

White Water Rafting with Nouveau MondeSou led us through all the good rapids and most fun routes. At one point he tells us all to close our eyes and just to trust him as we ploughed forward. He yells “OK open your eyes!” just a split second before we run headfirst into a huge rock. “I didn’t used to say ‘open your eyes’ at all until a lady smashed her face once” Sou told us. We all chuckled nervously.

The only bad thing about bending the rules is the inevitable painful experiences. Our third time surfing a class four rapid, everyone except Yichao was thrown from the raft. I nearly stayed in except that one of the two people in our raft that didn’t come with our group, a middle-aged woman who told us she and her husband, also in our raft, had moved from Florida to Montreal to retire (sounds kinda backwards if you ask me), was launched from the other side of the raft and, perhaps in an effort to stay in the raft, caught me in the chest with her forearm and propelled me backwards into the water. The impact knocked the wind out of me, and I gasped immediately. Unfortunately I was already underwater at that point, so I just gasped in a bunch of water. The next thirty seconds were probably the closest to death I have ever felt (though realistically I know I had on a life jacket, there were trained guides all around, yada yada), and when I finally resurfaced, I still couldn’t breath because of all the water I breathed in. I kept doing the hiccup breath, unable to really draw in any air. I looked up and Sou was yelling at me to swim towards the boat, so I clutched my paddle (somehow still in my grasp) and swam like my life depended on it towards the raft. White Water Rafting with Nouveau Monde

After that experience, I was significantly more spooked about the rapids. “Are you scared?” the Florida woman asked me the first time we headed back into the class four, “nope,” I replied, and I meant it. Had she asked me the same question after that fall, the answer would have been very different. Towards the end of the run, Sou pointed our raft back into a rapid and positioned it so that we flipped over completely, propelling us through the air. This time I was more prepared for the subsequent turmoil. I let go of my paddle and tried to float on my back as I had been instructed. Somehow I managed to get stuck under the raft for a second. Let’s just say, being stuck underwater and feeling something preventing you from surfacing doesn’t exactly give you a feeling of joy. But I got through it, and in no time we were all back in the boat paddling to the next rapid.

White Water Rafting on the Rouge RiverAt the end of the day, we returned to the compound, chilled by the pool and played some volleyball with some cool Quebecois guys and girls. On the drive back to Montreal, everyone napped. When I finally fell into bed that night it was the best sleep I’d had in months.

Unfortunately my camera got quite water-logged and is still recovering, so for now you’ll have to settle for the professional photos that we bought. Will add more pics as soon as my camera functions properly again!

[travelthursday] Happiness for $3.50

I know, I know…I’ve been terribly slack this week, what with no Music Monday post and all. But things have been quite busy lately – I have finally decided for sure to leave Montreal and return home come September 1st! So you will get all kinds of posts in the weeks to come as I will be driving back to South Carolina.

Wildflowers Marché Fermier Montreal PlateauIn any case, I do have a pretty sweet travel post for this week. Earlier this week I was walking home after a great Yoga class at my place of work, Yoga-à-Porter, when I decided to walk by the little stretch of green, Parc Lahaie, on St. Joseph and St. Laurent.

To my surprise, the Marché Fermier was up! I had previously thought it was open only on Thursdays. As I was walking through the market, one stand in particular caught my eye. In front of the table, a girl was holding a small bouquet of flowers, and I noticed that they had the flowers for sale.

“How much was that bouquet?” I asked the girl.

“3-50,” she replied, “really reasonable, right?” That sold me. I looked at the wild flowers – beautiful big yellow ones, small fluffy purple ones, leafy red ones. They did look a little wilted, but I was in one of those moods – you know, where the smallest things can make you happy all day – so I started picking out my bouquet.

After I had made my choice, I emptied my change-purse, only to find that I had exactly $3.45! I looked at the merchant, “Is $3.45 okay?” I asked.

“That’s perfect,” he said, a soft drawl sneaking into his voice, “actually, I overcharged you.” He smiled at me, and I walked off with a little slice of happiness for less than 4 bucks.

The Marché Fermier is great because you can buy fresh fruits and vegetables as well as cheeses, breads, and plenty of other local products for much cheaper than in a grocery store or épicerie. As I passed through the market, there was even a guy playing the banjo – and very well, I might add! Just walking through the market made me feel much more connected with nature, and later I had fun imagining myself frolicking in beautiful fields of wildflowers with the faint sound of a banjo coming from somewhere and not a single care in the world.

[travelthursday] 6,000 feet of rocks and stuff

This is more than a day late, yada yada, I know. I’ve just been trying to increase the level of suspense. Really.

So let me tell you a little story about two girls who didn’t know each other very well and decided to hike the tallest mountain in the NE and then almost died (not really, but that sounds like a good story, amiright!?).

Conquered Mount Washington...almost

just finished my gymnastics routine

My friend Ally and I drove 4 hours from the great city of Monteal, QC all the way to New Hampshire just to hike a mountain. But not just any mountain, we hiked Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast USA. Funny, now that I think about it, it took just as long to hike from the bottom to the top as it took to drive from Montreal to NH. Let’s just say we had some issues we didn’t anticipate.

It all started at the grocery store…or rather, Mac’s Market. We were browsing the isles the day before the hike – Ottawa native Ally was oggling the 13 types of cheez-its American grocers stock (I refrained from sparking a conversation about Easy Cheese) and I was deciding on the flavor of beef jerky to buy, when an idea came to me. “You know what we should get?” I said to Ally, “No camping experience is complete without Franzia.” I couldn’t have been more wrong right. What I didn’t consider at the time was the fact that we were hiking Mount Washington the next morning (did I mention it’s over 6000 feet high? Yeah, I didn’t think I so).

So we pulled into Dolly Copp campground just before dark and started setting up camp. Ally set up the tent and I built a fire. There were dry sticks a-plenty around us, but we could have really used some real firewood! Just a note – most campground will sell you firewood, but you have to get there before their office closes most of the time. So we were SOL in that department. Luckily, Ally pulled some she-woman moves and pulled up some serious stumps so we were set. After cooking our Yves veggie burgers on the grill at the site, we played some guitar and made s’mores (both staples of the camping experience). We chatted until the fire died down and then rekindled it and ate some more marshmallows. The second time the fire died, we decided to call it a night and headed to the tent.

The next morning I’m up around 8 with that “don’t eat anything funny” feeling in my stomach and the “don’t move too quickly” feeling in my head. Ally is still asleep. After changing into some clean clothes, I rebuild the fire and then fumble around in the car for a bit to find something to cook our egg whites in. I know Ally said she brought a pan, but this pot will have to do. I pop a couple Advil and put everything edible that I can find into the pot with the egg whites.

After breakfast, Ally headed back in the tent for a nap. I cleaned up our campsite a bit then headed to the bath house to wash up. On my way back, I found a dumpster and chucked out the rest of the Franzia. There’d be no more drinking from that box that’s for sure.

When I got back, I woke Ally up and made a proposal: “Look, I know we came here to hike Mount Washington, and I really do want to do it; however we may need to accept our current hungover state and just drive to the top instead.” Ally looked at me indignantly, “No way, we came here to hike, we are going to hike! I know I’ll be disappointed if we don’t.” And with that it was settled, we were going to hike Mount Washington hungover.

Beginning of Hike Mount Washington

Us before we got tired

At first, the hike was not that bad. The rocky dirt path climbed slowly but steadily upwards, and we chatted a bit and played brain games. But soon the path became a stream of boulders, and we were out of breath, so we stopped on a bridge over the stream we’d been following to have a bit of the teriyaki beef jerky I’d picked out. It was surprisingly delicious. Feeling rejuvenated, we picked ourselves back up and continued up the mountain. We met plenty of people hiking back down the mountain. When we asked how much longer to the top, each person seemed less optimistic than the last – could it be possible that we were climbing to infinity and the path was just an endless staircase to nowhere?

Steep trail Mount Washington

Steep trail

Halfway up we came across a ravine with a little cabin and deck with tables. There were toilet houses close by, which was a nice relief. We also came across a real-life hand pumped well hidden off in the woods. It took a good 15-20 pumps, but once I got to taste the water, it was some of the freshest, most pure-tasting liquid I’ve ever experienced in my life. We refilled our water bottles and continued on our way.

Fresh Spring Water Pump Mount Washington

Fresh Spring water pumped from the well in the woods

In no time, we were past the tree line and were just climbing rocks – using our hands almost as much as our feet because of how vertical the climb had become. About 3/4 of the way up, we came across this miniature mount that from far off looked like the mount where Boromir dies in LOTR, although by the time we reached the top it looked more like mount where Frodo gets stabbed by one of the Ring Wraiths. (Let’s just say this hike involved plenty of LOTR references).

Hill on Mount Washington, NH

Is this where Boromir died?

Top of Hill Mount Washington

Is this where Frodo was stabbed?

As we reached the top of this mini-mount, we had begun to ascend into the cloud that surrounded the top of the mountain. It felt like rain, but was really just mist/fog. The path flattened out for a few minutes, and then the real climb began.

Level Trail Mount Washington, NH

Trail levels out

Ally and I stood for a second, staring up at the completely vertical climb over sharp, moss-covered rocks, trying to identify the best route. Finally, we just said “screw it” and started climbing, doing our best not to look behind us at the long drop over sharp rocks and into the mist that had by now completely engulfed us. “It feels like we’re on a movie set,” I said.

Sharp Rocks, Mist, Fog Mount Washington

rocks and mist

I found it to be more and more difficult to continue to climb, but I forced my legs and arms forward, using all four limbs equally to haul myself up the side of this mountain. Finally, we relocated the path, and it became more sloping. A few minutes later, we passed two hikers on their way down. “How much farther to the top?” I croaked. “Oh, have you guys come all the way from the bottom!? It’s not much farther at all. Maybe two minutes! Good luck.” Two minutes. Best news all day. I could do two minutes.

Finally, we reach the ridge of the mountain – there is literally a ridge, as if you’re in a bowl or a volcano. We went across the top, only to find…a road. Then, stairs.

Stairs at top of Mount Washington, New Hampshire

Got to the top only to find...stairs!

“We have to go to the real summit!” Ally exclaimed, and proceeded to climb the stairs and practically jog to the mound of rocks with a sign on top proclaiming, “Mount Washington Summit.” We got there only to be asked by a rather overweight New Hampshire tourist if we could take her picture next to the sign. And I have to say, New Hampshirites, you guys have the weirdest accents. Afterwards, the NH lady returned the favor, then we went to check out the old hotel, The Summit House, which was opened in 1852.

Girls hike to Mount Washington summit

We are triumphant!

We left the hotel and spotted a snack bar, which was convenient considering I had a craving for a Snickers Bar (as you do after a long hike, right?). We were feeling pretty dead by then, so we just trudged without talking through the mist (did I mention it was about 45 degrees at the summit?) to the snack bar.

Snack bar at Mount Washington

Hungry? Why Wait?

We inquired about the shuttle down – $45 per person! Can you believe that!? After snacking and staring into space for a bit, we checked out the gift shop and the small museum then headed to the parking lot to see if we could catch a ride down. Luckily, a nice middle-aged Quebecois couple agreed to give us a ride to the bottom, and we got to ride down with the heat on, listening to an informative CD in French and napping off/on. I think that was the most relaxing car ride I have ever experienced in my life.


[travelthursday] Portlandia…food carts, Powell’s, epic surprise and all

So I know this post is WAYYYY overdue, (more than just a day late that’s for sure), so I apologize for that! BUT it is worth the wait. For the last post I wrote on my trip to Portland, go here.

At the end of May a friend and I went to surprise a good friend of ours for her birthday out in Portland, Oregon. Carly (the Portland friend) and I had tried to organize a trip a while ago to celebrate our two May birthdays, but I canceled because I didn’t think I would have time or money. Two weeks before what was supposed to be the big trip, Carly facebook-invited me to her birthday party. I responded ‘yes’ and said I’d go in spirit – which was the truth…until I got to thinking…what if I did go out there for her birthday? I began checking plane tickets and eventually found one for $350 Burlington, VT to Portland, OR on Kayak.com. Before I could think twice, I’d purchased it and sent a message to friend Nick to coerce him into coming along. Two short weeks later and we were on our way to Portland (after many pleas to come to Portland on Carly’s part and many made up excuses from us why we couldn’t).

Nick, I discover during my layover in NYC, has missed his flight (in typical Nick fashion) and won’t be able to make it to Portland until the night after the planned time. So much the better. We decide to make it a double surprise.

I stay the night with another friend, Dave (whose birthday also falls in May), and decide to explore the city while Carly is at work and then surprise her as she’s leaving her office around 5pm. I wander around for a bit, trying to stay dry (but failing for the most part). Seems like nobody here sells umbrellas. I find out later that the locals are so used to the weather they don’t bother protecting themselves from it…at one point some guy on the sidewalk pointed to my umbrella and said, “it’s not raining!” he puts a hand out to test for rain, “actually…I guess it kinda is.” But that’s Portland for you. It rains so much that even the tiniest respite seems like a sunny day. If you don’t take advantage of the sunshine right when it comes out, you won’t get another chance.

While I was waiting for Carly’s work day to come to a close, I headed over to Powell’s books, America’s largest independent bookstore. And it was beautiful. I have never seen anything like it.

I’m pretty sure the 12 year old avid reader in me fainted and then decided never to to leave the place. In addition to all the wares of a regular bookstore, Powell’s accepts used books that are in good condition – so it’s a great place to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Books at Powell's Book in Portland, Oregon

My book choices from Powell's

Somehow I managed to buy only two books for myself: The Woman’s Book of Creativity by C Diane Ealy, and American Gods by Neil Gaimon. I bought also a couple father’s day presents – one for my dad (a book to record wines in) and one for my brother-in-law who is a dad as of today! The book is called Be Prepared: a Practical Handbook for New Dads by Gary Greenberg and Jeannie Hayden. Powell’s alone is a good enough reason to visit Portland. You will see what I mean if you check out the pics at the end of this post.

So 4 o’clock rolls around and I decide to head over to Carly’s office. Some bad directions and a wrong address later, I’ve struck up a conversation with the concierge, and it doesn’t seem like Carly’s gonna show. I call her (we had planned to catch up today anyway) and find out that she’s on the bus on the way home. I tell her I call her back and manage to arrange for her boyfriend to come pick me up (he had no idea I was in town either). He manages to convince Carly to wait for him to come home before heading out again, and by the time we arrive she has called him twice and is fuming that he has spoiled her plans. She doesn’t even notice me as I walk through the door, she’s so busy sulking and staring at her phone.

“Sup Carly?” I ask, waving. She looks up and instantly the frown is wiped from her face morphing into one of shock, then disbelief, then she is screaming and jumping up and down. I don’t really remember what was said, just that there was a lot of screaming and jumping and some crying. The whole day, we talked about how Carly’s birthday bash would only be better if Nick were there. (I strategically spurred this conversation as I thought it would increase the incredibility of the full surprise.)

Guy Enjoying food carts in Portland, ORFor dinner, we check out a few food carts (one of Portland’s claims to fame!). It’s like a little food cart village! There are also a ton of them downtown. Another definite must on your travel list.

Later that night we all went out for a drink. Dave had given Nick directions to the bar on the sly since he’d be arriving late to the airport. We were all settled in at the bar (which smelled like barbecue ribs if I remember correctly though it was quite a classy establishment) when Nick just bursts through the front door and races towards the table. Carly took one look at him and stood on her chair, screaming and laughing. Then she grabbed Nick’s wrist and dragged him outside to do a happy dance.

The rest of the week was great fun, and Nick and I were sad to leave! Carly told us both that even after we’d been there for a few days she was having trouble believing it was real. Hopefully we can all see each other again this New Year’s!

[travelthursday] My Montreal Bucket List

Okay, so you may or may not know that I have been living in Montreal for a little under a year now. During my time here, I have gotten to experience a number of things: I have been ice-skating at Parc la Fontaine, I have been to the Biodome, the Insectarium, Parc Mont Royal (a number of times), several art shows, fashion shows, indie shows, electronic shows, bars, pubs, clubs, I’ve checked out the famous places – Schwartz’s, Fairmount Bagels, La Banquise, PatitiPatata, I’ve been rock climbing, biking, jogging, yoga-ing, participated in fashion shows, photoshoots, promo events, I’ve been a dog-walker, a painter, a carni, done reno work, tried to start my own business, helped other people start their own businesses, taken drawing lessons, sewing lessons, guitar lessons (well, starting this week anyway), I’ve marketed my product (jewelry), I’ve marketed other people’s products, and I’ve done just about everything in between. BUT I still have not done and seen everything I’d like to do and see in Montreal.

SO, having been inspired by this post by Kate Going Global, a fellow travel blogger, I’ve decided to write a Montreal Bucket List – basically just a list of things I’d like to do and places I’d like to see in Montreal that I haven’t already done or seen.

So, here goes:

1) Hike the trails in Parc Mont Royal
2) Use my “flying trapeze” class groupon
3) Go to the Botanical Gardens
4) Visit Notre Dame Cathedrale
5) Go to Piknic Electronik
6) Go to La Ronde Amusement Park
7) See the Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibit
8) Visit St. Joseph’s Oratory
9) See a concert in the Bell Centre
10) Visit Mont Royal & Notre-dame-des-neiges cemeteries
11) See Cirque du Soleil
12) Spend a day photographing the city
13) Go to the McCord History Museum
14) Check out the Maisonneuve Market
15) Eat at Dagwood’s Subs

Any other suggestions? Leave ‘em in the comments!

[travelthursday] Vacation in your backyard

You may or may not have noticed that I didn’t put up a Travel Thursday post last week. I was also more behind than usual on my Music Monday post, which held me up on the Thursday one, sorry about that! (Since I know all of you are just dying to read my blog, I apologize for ruining your entire week by not writing one post!)

That said, this post was supposed to be for a contest that ended last week (so yeah, not winning that one) but the theme was “Vacationing close to home.” So yeah, I know I live in Montreal and all, so I do feel a little cheap because of all the options the city gives me, but I’m pretty sure this is fairly original. Read on to see, and feel free to give me feedback in the comments!

This year, budgets are still slim from the economic downturn, and as a result many people are cutting back on vacations. Instead of going to far-away destinations, they are opting to stay close to home – going camping, staying with relatives, etc. In my search for the best vacation close to home, I came upon an interesting site in Parc Mont Royal.

On an overcast Sunday afternoon, I bypassed the Tam-Tams and the first hill to take a stroll deeper into the woods.parc mont royal tight rope walkers The trees were sparse but shady, and as I approached a large clearing, I saw tight-ropes strung from tree to tree, and people practicing circus tricks. I felt like the little boy who sneaked into the Teddy Bears’ Picnic.

I ventured further into the woods, past the first clearing and the circus-folk and into what looked like a dirt arena. To my surprise, contained within this arena were a couple dozen grown men dressed as knights and pirates and villains. Each had some sort of foam weapon and shield, and was decked out in a variety of home-made armor. Some even carried big flag-poles. I sat and watched for a minute as the men pummeled each other. Eventually I discovered their system. There were two teams, one on either side of the arena. As soon as the signal was given, they rushed at each other and started hacking mercilessly with their foam swords. After a minute or so, there were a handful of guys squatting, and a handful left fighting. In another minute, the whole thing was over.

Close by, two men sat under the shade of a tree next to a blanket covered in foam weapons and armor. I walked over to inquire about the game. “So what’s going on here?” I asked of the tall, broad-shouldered man with the flame-red beard, “What are the rules of the game?” He looked a bit taken aback and was reluctant to talk, but eventually he explained that the rules were quite simple: there are weapons for larp at mont royal parkgenerally two teams. At the signal, the two teams rush each other and the team completely eliminated first loses. A blow to the chest or back is fatal, but if you get hit on a limb, you simply have to stop using that limb. Short swords can be used one-handed, but if you have a longsword, you must use two hands – which means that if you lose an arm, you can only use your longsword to block, no longer to strike. The cost for playing this game? “It’s free to play,” my informant explained, “but if you want to rent a weapon, it’s $5. Well, $5 for guys, $3.50 for girls, and $2.50 for kids for the whole day.” Talk about a cheap vacation!

Now, I know this isn’t really a vacation in the traditional sense – there’s no overnight stay in a scenic area or big city. You don’t have people waiting on you hand and foot, and you still have to go home at the end of the day. But, it is a way to “escape from it all” even for just a day. Somewhere deep in the woods of Mont Royal Park, you can be a warrior, a pirate, or just a kid for a whole afternoon. Sounds like a vacation to me!

[travelthursday] Fallin for Multnomah

Last month, my friend Nick and I flew across the country to Portland, Oregon to surprise our friend Carly on her birthday. Luckily, it was a last minute decision (we found super cheap tickets on Kayak.com less than two weeks before leaving!) because if we had been planning this for a while, there’s no way we would have been able to keep the secret. I will tell you more about our birthday surprise next week, when I’m going to write about the city of Portland and its different neighborhoods (and food carts, of course!), but this week is all about nature.

On one of our off-days, Carly, Nick, and I drove to the nearby Multnomah Falls. When we arrived, parked in a puddle 3 inches deep, and climbed to the bottom of the falls, it was difficult to tell if there was any spray, or if it was all just rain (with the exception of half of one day, it rained/drizzled nonstop during our whole stay in Portland). In any case, the falls were beautiful. You can even climb to the very top if you are feeling inspired. We were not. But we did make it to the bridge halfway up (see pics below).

Afterwards, we headed to the Vista House on Crown Point for a moment of clear sky (literally, a moment – by the time we got up there, the storm was already rolling back in. Was pretty amazing to see, though). We checked out the small museum (and shop, of course) in the basement of the Vista House. This is a definite must-see if you are close by Portland. It is simply awe-inspiring, and you can drive to the top – no hiking involved!

[travelthursday] Lachine, QC: Parc René Levesque

The other day, my friend Chelsea and I left busy Montreal on a mission to find the Montreal MegaReuse Center and some used furniture to repurpose. A few wrong turns, and some very confused pedestrians later, my SC-plated car pulled into the warehouse parking-lot, and we descended on the place like lions on a gazelle. Well, something like that anyway…

After we’d done as much damage as our wallets could handle, Chelsea and I decided to go exploring around quaint and quiet Lachine, QC. I quickly pulled up Yelp on my Android and noticed the presence of a Dairy Queen not too far down the road. We decided to head that way and then come up with our POA.

As it turns out, the Dairy Queen overlooked a rather charming pier, playing host to a number of characters – men fishing, kids walking their family dogs, a retired couple looking out over the canal, just enjoying the scenery. After a few minutes, we noticed a park across the canal and decided to go exploring. Turns out that park was Parc René Levesque – home to a number of sculptures, a tree museum, and the terminus of the over 85 km bike path from Montreal.

We found a number of interesting things in the park, including giant wire statues shaped like legs filled with huge stones, the “story rock” that described an alternate universe (the start of scientology?) a ton of trees, each with a little label and explanation, as well as a fairly puzzling sculpture garden reminiscent of Alice and Wonderland.

Check out my pics below!

PS did I mention they call KFC “PFK” here? heh heh…

[travelthursday] This town called Burlington

A week or so ago, I visited beautiful Burlington, VT right alongside Lake Champlain. I didn’t realize this, but apparently Burlington has been suffering from massive amounts of flooding lately. Due to the snow melt and a ton of rain, Lake Champlain has gotten up to 3 feet over its normal level, flooding neighborhoods, the beaches, bike paths, piers, et al. I have some pictures below of the flooding – there is actually a couple kayaking through a neighborhood right next to the Winooski River.

Luckily, my one day stop in Burlington happened on a beautiful sunny day – one of the first of the season according to my host, Nathan (who I found through Airbnb btw). He handed me a touristy map and explained that there is a ten mile long bike route that encircles the downtown Burlington area. “I think some of the path is swamped because of the flooding, though,” he said, mentioning that every one of Lake Champlain’s Burlington beaches was underwater as well. “The New York side of the lake is on much higher ground, so they didn’t get the worst of it.”

So I headed down to Ski Rack in the downtown area and rented a bike. Next time I think I’ll rent a kayak. Check out my pics below of the bike tour I took until the water level forced me to turn around. I also took a quick peak at Church Street, Burlington’s pedestrian shopping/dining street that was lined with food carts, souvenir booths, and musicians busking for money.

On my next trip, I hope to find somewhere to take sailing lessons!