As I mentioned in the introduction, I had the chance to spend a semester in Québec city for my Masters in 2013. At the time, I completely fell in love with the city, the country, the people, the landscapes... In 2015, I made it back to this amazing country. Today, I've decided to write about my experience... 😀 On the picture below, you can see me, myself and I, with my backpacks, ready for a month on the road.
I remember how I felt when about to land in Québec city after a 6 or 7-hour flight from Paris: I was scared. Scared that Québec would be "not as nice" as what I remembered. I was scared that I "exaggerated" my love for the place. I was stressed. And I took a cab from Québec airport - as there is not much public transportation from there, and the driver was listening to the new album of Mark Knopfler (the singer and guitarist of Dire Straits). And I knew everything would be fine. <3
I stayed in the Auberge de la Paix, a nice hostel very well located in the city center of Québec. I was a bit tired with the flight and jet lag, but went for a walk as the sky was blue. Qc is a very interesting city to me as it is a "Europeanized" city in North America. Qc people are very proud of their "French" roots and culture. It is becoming a more and more touristic city; I noticed the increasing number of Asians between 2013 and 2015. But it remains a "human size" city, which is very relaxing. An overview of Qc on the pictures below, with the "Vieux Québec" (i.e., old part of the city) and the Château Frontenac, which is nowadays used as a 5 star luxury hotel.
Qc is a very accessible city for French speakers, even if the Québecois accent sounds a bit "funny" to us! :P But also to English speakers, as Canadians are really good at speaking English.
Juste quelques exemples d'expressions québécoises, et leur traduction française :- t'es tu correct ? (ça va ?)- mettre du gaz dans l'char (mettre de l'essence dans la voiture)- j'm'en v'nais (j'allais)- un chandail (un pull)etc etc etc... :D
Qc is a hilly city. There is a really nice walk around the castle, with a great view on Lévis, which is the city located on the other side of Saint-Laurent river. As an anecdote, the Saint-Laurent can be completely frozen in winter time - I saw that back in 2013, which was quite impressive.
The city center also offers some really nice small streets with a lot of shops, restaurants, and galleries. I would recommend to enjoy a warm hot chocolate with maple syrup or even a Canadian coffee! 😀 The town hall is an impressive building which always presents some interesting decorations, depending the time of the year. Some pumpkins etc in Autumn, some snow in Winter... I'd recommend having a look.
Everybody knows about the Niagara falls. But not so many people know about the Montmorency falls, which are actually higher than the Niagara ones. Montmorency is very easily accessible by bus from Qc city, therefore I would definitely recommend people to go there... No words needed! 😀
The Montmorency falls are also completely frozen in Winter.
On the other side of the road, there is a lovely quiet river where I enjoyed meditating, looking at the flow, listening to the nature... The water is a bit cold for a swim though! 😉
Le Quartier du Petit Champlain is probably the "busiest" part of the city. It is a pedestrian district with lots of lovely shops, cafés and restaurants. It is always lively, with people playing the music in the streets. This district looks pretty French to me, maybe a bit like a mini-Montmartre... 😀 You can taste some local food there, for instance the famous Queues de Castor (beaver tails). Don't worry, it's not real tails from beavers! It is some kind of beignet (French donut); delicious, particularly with maple syrup.
I made it back to the city center for a beautiful sunset...
And I finished the day at the Christmas shop! A big shop open all year long, with only Christmas stuff. :O Worth having a look! :D
The next day, I spent a few hours at l'Université Laval, where I spent a semester in 2013. It was full of nostalgia that I went back to this campus. I even had a lunch with Ariane, a lovely Québecoise. And we enjoyed... poutine!!! THE typical dish from Québec! 😉 A bit of a heavy dish made of potatoes, chips and gravy (necessary for the cold and long winter days!). The UL campus is a lovely place with a lot of grass, flowers, trees, squirrels and even marmots! :D
After enjoying a short week in Québec, I flew to Toronto for my first time in Ontario. I left the French speaking Canada for a way more Americanized place. My plane landed in the city airport, from which I took a picture of the skyline by night. I stayed in a cool hostel; I'm afraid I forgot the name but I remember I had a delicious breakfast there, with homemade waffle and fresh berries; and a wild terrace.
For my first day in Toronto, I just walked around the city center with both of my backpacks; one on the back, one on the belly. I was a bit disappointed to discover mostly high buildings after the beauty of Qc, but I also found some nice places, such as the train station, which reminded me of Grand Central NYC.
I spent a couple of nights Couchsurfing at Choi, a Korean-Canadian man. He took me out for some Asian food, which was really good. And I found some more interesting - to my eyes - places in the city, such as Queen's street, a street full of graffitis and weird shops, and Kensigton market, my favorite area.
I believe that walking around the city is a good way to take the most of it. And you will probably meet some friendly squirrels on your way! 😀
North America is also a place for crazy food events, and apparently I found a poutine competition while being there... On the other hand, my CS host got me some bread and camembert! 😀
I ended my (short) stay in Toronto by taking a bus to Kitchener-Waterloo, my next step. The Greyhound buses are a good option to consider in Canada as they are both very cheap and very comfortable, with wifi and outlets. I payed $8 for my journey.
I then made it to Kitchener-Waterloo, which was my main destination for that stay, as I went there to visit a research team at the University of Waterloo. I spent my first 3 days with a lovely Viet family. Huong offered to host me on CS; it was her first time hosting people. She used a bit CS in Europe before. She showed me around her city. Her mum cooked me some delicious Viet food, while I taught them how to make French crêpes! 😀 Our "main" visit was the Waterloo Region Museum and Doon Heritage Village, a very interesting place to learn about the history of the region. It was actually Huong's first time in that museum, and she enjoyed it as much as I did!
We also enjoyed a nice walk in a park, with the beautiful colors of early Fall.
After my stay at Huong family's, I kept on surfing for a few weeks. I created a public trip on CS (see my "Travel tips for globetrotters" article) and received loads of offers! <3 I stayed at Hanspal's, an Indian yoga teacher, with whom I played board games, went for burritos and bowling. I stayed at Pedro and Anlui's, two Mexican chicos, who cooked breakfast for me and lend me a bike for a few days. I stayed at a handsome Canadian man - I forgot his name - who left me the key of his flat as he had to go to Toronto. I stayed at Ali and Vida's, a lovely Persian couple, with whom I curved a pumpkin... Amazing stories.
And I enjoyed the Indian summer in Ontario. Have a look at these colors.
I ran into the Oktoberfest during one of my walks, and a (blond) lady from Canadian TV interviewed me as I was probably the only tourist in the town... 😉
The world is small. A bit of context... In February 2015, I spent a month travelling Spain. In my hostel in Madrid, I became friend with a Canadian called Tyler. We then met again in Barcelona, and Tyler came to visit me in France in May before heading back to Ontario. In June-July, I told him I would be going to Waterloo in October, and I discovered... that this was very close to his place! :D Which is a bit amazing when you see the SIZE of Canada - and even the size of Ontario. So Tyler invited me to spend the Thanksgiving (Canadian thanksgiving) at his place in Dutton, a tiny cute village, at his mum's, Helena. I loved my time there, the weather was gorgeous. Tyler took me to the Erie lake, where I had a swim (of course). Perfect Indian summer. The cottages around the lake looked very cosy.
Tyler also taught me how to play baseball - I was not really good at it haha, but it was fun. For Thanksgiving, Helena cooked a turkey for us and we played card games with some other members of the family. I cooked some crêpes for our last breakfast, and I also made a yogurt cake, which everyone seemed to enjoy! 😀 I would love to come back to your lovely place some day. Oh, I forgot to mention, we also became the "old cat ladies" giving treats to all the cats in the village! Haha!
I forgot to mention that Tyler picked me up in Kitchener as he was around the area, and his sister drove me back there as her boyfriend was studying in the city. Very convenient for me, thanks again! 😀
I kept on exploring the city and found a nice place called Victoria park; a very quiet park with nice trees, lakes and lots of geese. It was mid-October, and the temperatures were dropping down already.
During my stay in Kitchener-Waterloo, Huong (my first host) introduced me to a friend of hers, Paulina, a charming Polish-Canadian girl. Paulina then invited me for a cookie party at her place with her flatmates! :D We chatted a lot and I told her about my plans of going to Niagara. She told me that she was actually from there, and would be happy to drive me there, host me, and show me around! 😀 Keep on reading this article to find out about Niagara falls! ^^
I went for a day trip to St Jacobs, a small "conservative" village, with a big farmers market. I remember that it was freezing on that day; it actually snowed when I was waiting for my bus.
The village itself had a lot to offer, with some museums, art galleries, small shops...
You may wonder why I used the word conservative earlier. It's because there is an interesting fact about this town: some people refuse to use electricity, wear black clothes, and move around on horses!
I also went for a day trip to Laurel Creek Conservation Area, a place which is not very accessible without car - but I made it, so it's possible. Lovely forest and lake.
I hit the road with Paulina to Niagara falls. Her parents - and her dogs - welcomed us very warmly! 😀
I didn't like at all the "city" around the falls, which is very very very touristic, with only burgers, hot dogs, and stupid (according to me) attractions. The falls are impressive of course - but I prefer Montmorency! 😉 Because these ones are not in the wild but in the middle of a business city...
Paulina and I took the Canadian Maid of the Mist and went under the falls. It was quite impressive - and also quite noisy! And very wet! lol
We then walked around the falls by night, and ended the day having a great dinner and hot drinks at Paulina's family.
On the following day, we went to Niagara-on-the-Lake, a less famous place but very lovely! We were pretty lucky with the weather as well and enjoyed some ice cream in the sun! 😀
Paulina dropped me in Hamilton on her way back to Kitchener, and I spent a couple of days in this surprising place. I didn't expect much of the city, but I finally loved it. I was staying in a hostel where we could borrow some bikes, and therefore decided to explore the "countryside". The weather was amazing, the Automnal colors at their best, and I found some great hiking paths. Have a look at the following pictures to understand why I love Canada so much! 😀 (Another reason: Tim Hortons haha.)
I ended my stay with a short time in Toronto, before flying back to Europe. I discovered some parts of the city I didn't see on my first time, such as the city hall and it's big TORONTO letters, but also (and this was definitely my favorite part in the city) the Toronto islands. A very quiet area with a great view on the Toronto skyline. Quite a good weather as well, even though it was the end of October.
Ward's island offers some colorful houses, some empty beaches, a quiet river and harbor, and many other interesting things (a café, an outdoor library, etc).
Canada is my favorite country (so far) and I will go back for sure. Maybe British Columbia next summer if everything goes well! Fingers crossed! 😀 <3
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