My jacket is here somewhere
21.05.2016 - 02.06.2016 27 °C
I spent my three nights in Toronto living in a Chinese family's basement. That was weird. Other than that, nothing particularly noteworthy happened there. Given my living situation wasn't what you'd call social, and if you dare speak to strangers in the big city they give you a look of pure malevolence, there wasn't much in the way of interaction with other people. It was a pretty forgettable few days. Onwards to Ottawa.
In my dorm in Iceland a girl from Montréal warned me that Ottawa was "rubbish and boring." She also said she wasn't keen on Edinburgh and preferred Glasgow, so I dismissed her opinion as one of a raving lunatic. And I was right, because Ottawa is awesome. For three nights I stayed with a really cool Brazilian couple and their three cats, in an 18th floor flat with a cracking view of the city. I left my jacket there.
Ottawa is a pretty small place considering it's the capital, but has a really friendly and chilled out atmosphere. Unlike Toronto, you can chat to people in bars and coffee shops and they don't react like you've just sneezed in their drink, which is nice. It's also beautiful. The Rideau River and canal that runs parallel lead you serenely into the city, where Parliament Hill sits imposingly. The canal and locks, a sign assured me, are engineering masterpieces, for reasons I neither remember nor understand. There are plenty of walking tours and museums if you want to put your cultural hat on, and a few of great bars if you don't. I sat in a corner by myself in one, watching the Champions League final on the smallest TV, while everyone else watched some rounders on the other 200 screens. While the pretty server engaged me in a conversation about soccer, her eyes glazed over when I asked her opinion on television money distribution in Spain compared to England, so I suspect she may have been humouring me in the hope of a decent tip. I gave her a decent tip.
I retrieved my jacket and spent a further two nights with the greatest Couchsurfing host ever (she fed me bbq and lent me a bike) and her two lodgers, and found out that gin is remarkably cheap in Canada. I also discovered that I'm awful at pool after drinking cheap gin. I left my jacket there.
Candi, the aforementioned host, had regaled me with a tale of a guy who brutally murdered and decapitated a fellow passenger on a Greyhound bus. The next day I got a Greyhound bus to Montréal, the most populous city in French Canada. While Iceland dorm girl was off the mark in her assessment of Ottawa, she was bang on with her insightful and succinct observation that Montréal is "wicked." I took a break from staying in strangers' homes and returned to my familiar hostel habitat. The fact I'm travelling lighter than most females do for a night out meant I got embarrassingly excited about the free laundry facilities. I washed some clean clothes just for the hell of it.
In between washing clothes I did some stuff and met some people. The hostel proved to be a really cool social environment, especially if you're fond of Germans and Aussies, so I found a bunch of people to go exploring with. Cycling is very much encouraged and is the best way to see the city, and means you stumble across quirky little places between the main sights. I was particularly taken by the characterful Old Port and Mont Royal, the latter of which rewarded a bit of a climb with a beautiful view over the city, especially in the evening. There is a public piano up there, and a few talented and not-so-talented pianists serenade the crowd. Elsewhere, the botanical gardens are rather pretty, and the oddly fascinating Insectarium made the $20 entry fee just about decent value, while the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is great if walking on F1 tracks is your thing.
Like Ottawa people in Montréal are, on the whole, a mightily friendly bunch. Apart from one guy in a bar who hangs around the foosball table every night and gets his kicks from beating people in as arrogant a manner as possible. I didn't like him. Especially as gin has the same influence on my foosball skills as it does my pool. A few nights later a bunch of us found another place with a pool table. Because I didn't drink gin I was the best player in the bar, and proceeded to beat everyone in as arrogant a manner as possible. I got quite the kick out of it, especially when the I was awarded the nickname Pool Jesus.
With that my time in Montréal came to an end. As a city, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Likewise the Alexandria Hostel, where I met so many awesome and like minded people, some of whom I hope to meet again in Québec City and beyond. As I leave for QC the weather has taken a turn for the wet and dreary, with ominous storm clouds overhead.
I could really do with a jacket.