Readers, it has been a while.
Not that the five people who used to read this blog regularly are surprised. You all know me in real life, so you know I've been spending these past few years pretending to be an adult-type person with a career. It's been hard. It's been fun. Sometimes it's been both. But that's not why you're here.
You're here because I finally left the country again for the first time since finishing my degree. Memorial Day weekend, my girlfriend Dani and I drove to Montreal to visit a friend of hers and explore the Laurentian Mountains in Quebec. So here I am. And here you are. (I hope.)
Note: this entry does not have as many pictures as my previous entries. The pictures I do have were taken with an iPhone. One of many changes that I've experienced since I last wrote an entry was my transition into person-who-owns-a-smartphone. That's a whole other blog entry right there. So apologies in advance for both quantity and quality of pictures.
Saturday morning we drove to Montreal via I-91 and 89 through Vermont. As an almost-native Vermonter, I dragged us slightly off-course in order to show off the beautiful Queeche Gorge.
I have crossed Queeche Gorge many times in my life but rarely have the opportunity for more than a passing glance, lest I drive off the bridge or run over tourists.
We also stopped at a big country store with samples of Cabot cheese, tables full of maple syrup products, and a pen of alpacas in the backyard. Because Vermont.
We then had a very pleasant lunch on Church Street in Burlington before spending approximately 72 hours in line at border patrol. For a few minutes, my car actually straddled the US/Canadian border, and I got to be really excited that Kiara was in two countries at once. (Kiara is my car, in case that was somehow not obvious.)
Dani had met her friend in Montreal a few years ago through couchsurfing.com. For those of you who don't know, couchsurfing.com is a huge network of people all over the world who invite travelers to stay in their homes for free. The idea is that it's not just free room and board, but also a chance to meet new people and share travel stories. I myself have never done it, but I've heard great things.
Couch Surfing Friend lives in a residential area with multiple pastry shops and an adorable park. I, however, was most fascinated by the wrought-iron curving or spiral staircases in front of the terraced apartments. I've never seen anything like it. Anyway, Couch Surfing Friend was very nice, and we spent a very pleasant Saturday evening with her on her porch. She even dislikes kale as much as we do!
We're starting a movement. Eat Less Kale. Tell your friends.
Sunday morning, Dani and I visited one of the local pastry shop/cafes for breakfast, where I humiliated myself with my terrible, it's-been-nine-years-since-I've-practiced-with-actual-French-speakers French. The server smiled at me and switched to English, which made the whole thing worse. Not that that has never happened to me before (see: Paris and French-speaking Switzerland, both of which may appear in my retrospective travel blog if I ever get around to writing more than one entry). Fortunately, I had the opportunity to redeem myself later. I returned to the bakery portion of the cafe in order to buy food for lunch, and the server and I had the following conversation ENTIRELY IN FRENCH.
Me: Excuse me, are the torsades vegetarian?
Me: Are the torsades vegetarian?
(some kind of phrase with negation) meat.
Me: Okay. I would like one tomato torsade and one pesto torsade.
I was crazy-proud of myself. I mean, she smiled indulgently at me and repeated my order to the cashier, even though she hadn't done that for anyone else in line. But that's okay. It's been nine years, after all.
Couch Surfing Friend accompanied Dani and me to the Laurentians, to a park called Parc de Mont Tremblant which is about an hour and a half due north of the city. Even though it was overcast and mildly drizzly in Montreal, by the time we reached the park, it was actually quite nice out. A bit too hot, actually.
The park was gorgeous. Not too different from places you'd find in Vermont, with the lakes and ancient, tree-covered mountains. We had a nice picnic lunch by the side of this lake (called Lac Monroe) then set off on what appeared to be a gentle walk around the edge to a waterfall at the northern end.
Which is when I learned that the free map we had been provided upon entry to the park was not, in fact, to scale. In total, we walked about 15 kilometers (~9.3 miles), for a "waterfall" that was just a series of very intense rapids. Seriously. At no point in this stretch of river was water actually falling
. It would have been disappointing, if the walk hadn't been absolutely beautiful.
And we discovered a secret lake!
This also was not on the map. It was one of the more pleasant of our surprises, however.
We were overheated and exhausted by the time we found it, having expected to walk for maybe an hour instead of four, in summery heat/humidity that we had not been anticipating. It was a beautiful little oasis.
After finally reaching my car, we drove past Lac Superieur, just south of the Mont Tremblant park. I love all the small but dramatically-shaped mountains. Again, the whole area was strikingly similar to Vermont, except with French signs everywhere and Tim Hortons instead of Dunkin Donuts. (I am not exaggerating when I say we counted nine Tim Hortons on the drive between Montreal and Mont Tremblant.)
And this is Dani posing with some poutine. Poutine is, I'm told, a staple dish of Montreal (Quebec, even?) which is basically French fries smothered in gravy and cheese. As a vegetarian, I don't eat gravy, but I have it on good authority that the poutine was excellent.
Monday we drove back down through Vermont, this time taking a slightly out-of-the-way route through a smaller border crossing with ONE car in front of us instead of 539 of them. We traveled south across the islands in the northern portion of Lake Champlain.
At a gas station, we came across this gem:
I love dogs. Six labs in the back of a truck, getting SUPER EXCITED every time someone walked by, was just too much. I did have permission to take this picture, by the way.
Dani is very much a cat person, but even SHE admitted that this was adorable.
We took our final stop at a sheep farm in Williston. Dani's friends live there in an adorable little cottage in a valley with an excellent view of Camel's Hump (pictured here) and an even more adorable flock of sheep. They make yarn and sausage and sell them. Because Vermont.
Don't know when "next time" will be, as I don't get out of the country much these days. But maybe I'll write an entry on my retrospective travel blog about my previous French-speaking mishaps. There are a number of them. In case you are interested and haven't seen it, here is the one entry I've written in that blog so far.
Until next time, whenever that may be!
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