With the red VW golf collected on Tuesday morning we hit the highway heading north (William on the Avis desk was absolutely gobsmacked that Craig had never had Salisbury steak) towards Tofino. Our only stop (apart from the road works) was at the Coombs Old Country Market for lunch where we had hoped to see the fabled goats on the roof! Sadly the goats were elsewhere today but we picked up some beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables to take to our Airbnb in Tofino along with some lunch.
Leaving Whistler behind we set off on our expedition (yes, really!) to Victoria. Being on a budget, the one way fee to drop off our rental car on Vancouver Island was way too expensive to justify so instead, we chose the economy route. We began by driving our car to Vancouver airport to drop it off. We then sat around for an hour and a half at Vancouver Airport Arrivals (because Katy insists on being early whenever there is public transport involved!), before picking up the BC Ferries Connector bus from the airport to the ferry terminal. We then had to change buses at the terminal, get on the ferry then, get back on the bus before docking to take us to downtown Victoria. The whole process took us nearly 8 hours so by the time we arrived in Victoria, we were absolutely shattered! We arrived at Victoria bus terminal at 17:30 and, after a walk, checked into HI: Victoria Hostel, with lovely staff and a modern kitchen & living room we thought our luck was in. However we reached our very cramped, dingy room and Craig went off to use the male bathroom only to discover it was contained within a 40 bed dorm. We were beginning to discover this definitely wasn't a typical youth & backpackers hostel!
A 3:15am alarm and after only 3 hours sleep we crawled into a taxi to Halifax airport for our flight to Calgary. Despite the super early start we were both extremely excited to return to, truly, one of our favourite cities. We both managed to grab a little shut eye on the plane although, unfortunately not seated together, Katy managed to fall asleep on the shoulder of the poor gentleman next to her - who thankfully took it very well (or was kind enough not to mention it)! We landed at 09:00, hopped on the express bus to downtown and, laden with our luggage, we headed off to a Starbucks to grab a coffee and try to keep us awake for the few hours until our Airbnb was ready. We followed our coffee with a Mexican salad lunch at Original Joe's (it tasted like a healthy taco), and took advantage of their Wine Wednesday discount (Katy) to while away the time until check-in. Once 3 o'clock FINALLY rolled round we headed to our Airbnb and it was definitely worth the wait as it was possibly the nicest of our accommodations so far!
We packed up the car one last time and set off on our last road trip in eastern Canada on Monday with an earlier start than anticipated (on account of the lack of alcohol in Baddeck) and we arrived in downtown Halifax for early afternoon (fondly bidding our Nissan goodbye). We checked into Dalhousie University and faced one of the first real hard moments of the adventure so far, we were in separate beds!
Leaving Montréal we had a 3.5 hour train journey to Quebec City and we both took the chance to try and brush up on our standard grade French (from over a decade ago). We arrived in to Quebec City to a far nicer 21C which we were extremely glad about as we had a pretty much vertical climb from the train station to the Hotel Terrasse-Dufferin, our home for the next 3 nights. Arriving 4 hours before check in we were glad to be able to leave our rucksacks and we set off exploring. We made our way along Terrasse-Dufferin and up the many, many stairs to the promenade around to the Plains of Abraham, the battlefield where the British defeated the French in 20 minutes in 1759 and captured Quebec City. We didn't spend too much time exploring as we were both in need of some food and getting a bit hangry so we headed off in search of somewhere with an English menu and settled on Cafe du Paris - we certainly felt like we had been transported to continental Europe, and the $5 mimosas were excellent!!
We started our trip to Montréal with our quickest train journey so far, just under 2 hours from Ottawa, and we arrived into Gare Centrale at lunchtime on Sunday. A quick bite to eat and then a short walk to check in at the Grey Nun’s Residence at Concordia University. It definitely reminded us of our time at St. Peter’s (Katy) and Linksfield (Craig) halls at RGU. The communal toilets and showers were definitely not the highlight of the stay but we survived and we both managed to shower without forgetting to take anything with us! With a busy few days to follow we decided to stay local and had a lovely Italian meal at the nearby Wientein & Gavino’s and then, for a bit of fun, we went to Putting Edge. A fair 18 holes were played by both at the futuristic style crazy golf on Guy Street however neither of us were below par (53) although Craig did win by 2 strokes (not that he is competitive about it at all!) Our stay in the super cheap university accommodation meant that sadly we did not have the luxury of air conditioning for our stay and we feel we are able to relate to the UK at the moment as we struggled to sleep with only a fan and open windows in 25C nighttime temperatures.
We left our hostel and headed to Union Station with our bags strapped to us. In the sweltering 30C heat we couldn't have been more delighted when we boarded the train to Ottawa to find it was super comfortable and, most importantly, air conditioned! The journey ran over by about an hour but apart from that VIA Rail would put Scotrail to shame (Craig had a bigger smile when he saw how much leg room was available).
A 4am alarm. A 5am pick-up. A dark drive through a relatively quiet New York City, we arrived at La Guardia airport at 05:45 and boy were we early. Checked in, baggage dropped, security negotiated (no extra searches today) and omelettes finished we still had over 2 hours to wait. Fortunately the stone’s throw over to Toronto was quick (ahead of schedule) and we headed downtown on the Union-Pearson (UP) train, after some misadventure on the internal rail transfer system of course.