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My Canadian Road Trip

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Being retired provides an opportunity to be much freer than if you need to report somewhere daily to make money. Travel is one of the things most of us aspire to do. You also have the ability to go where the weather is best during summer or winter. I live in San Antonio in the winter and Olympia, Washington in the summer.


This year, I decided to drive cross country from Olympia to visit my children in Virginia. The plan was to drive through the upper states on the way there and then on the way back drive across Canada. It came to pass in June and July. After spending Father's Day with my children I headed north to Québec City. On the drive back to Olympia I visited Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg and Calgary. After Calgary, the urge to be home again after 5 weeks on the road got to be too great to continue on to Vancouver and Victoria where I had been to many times before anyway. I did attempt to visit Lake Louise outside Calgary but was frustrated with trying. It is just too popular during the summer. The government has put in parking lots miles out from the lake and takes tourists to the lake on buses. However, the demand far exceeds the capacity of the buses to get people back and forth. The line for the bus wrapped around the parking lot and was a 2 to 3 hour wait.

While Canada is inexpensive for Americans to visit because of the current favorable exchange rate for the American dollar, there are some things to know before you go. Your phone will probably work in Canada but it will cost you a fortune to use it. If you normally use your phone to navigate, you can rack up data charges because everything you do is roaming. It may be possible to get an International plan from your carrier, but AT&T was still too expensive in my opinion. Making future hotel reservations is harder if you are used to using your phone for research and making the reservation. I kept my phone off the entire time I was in Canada. You might also discover the portable GPS device you have in your glove compartment won't work in Canada. This could prompt a visit to Costco. There you will discover Canadian Costco only takes MasterCard and not Visa like in the US. You might also discover that your debit card won't work in the pumps either because it is from a foreign bank. It will work in ATMs and most service stations can swipe it inside but not Costco. Canadian credit cards all require a pin so an American card sometimes confuses the service station clerk because their machine spits out a receipt that needs to be signed instead of prompting for a pin. The Canadian province of Manitoba had just passed a new law that required gasoline to be paid for in advance. The law doesn't allow you to just leave your credit card with the attendant. You must actually pay for an amount of gas. The law was so new that the attendants didn't know how to reprogram the amount preset in the pump to clear it if your car would not hold the entire amount of fuel. It caused lots of frustration for them as well as me.

I won't try to tell you about all of the adventure but just the first place I visited, Québec City and some of the places nearby. Québec City is in Canada's mostly French-speaking province. It originated around 1608. It is dominated by the Citadel high on a hill with fortified walls like many medieval European cities, with stone buildings and narrow streets. It was quite a hike up to get to the older part from my hotel. There is a stairway part way to the top, but I also discovered an elevator in a nearby tobacco shop. Even after the elevator ride, it is still three steep blocks to the Citadel level. My first experience was noticing a bicycle shop at the top on a sloping street. A man in cycling gear was attaching a trailer to his bike out front. It seemed unusual that a bike shop would be at the top of a hill on such a steep street. I also quickly discovered that it was a Surly Bicycle dealer. These are heavy steel bikes that are revered almost like a cult by some cycling enthusiasts. I have a friend in Virginia that owns two of their popular bikes, a Karate Monkey and a Long Haul Trucker. It is common when riding with him to hear other riders yell Surly when passing, in recognition of a fellow owner.

From the top where the Citadel is located are magnificent views of the Saint Lawrence River and the Château Frontenac Hotel. The Citadel has a great tour on the changing of the guards which happens frequently. Below in the Petite Champlain district, the narrow cobblestone streets are lined with bistros and boutiques. The people manning these establishments are very friendly and all speak English as well as French. My T-shirt drawer grew astronomically during this trip.

I highly recommend a drive outside the city down both sides of the Saint Lawrence River on the ancient road know as The Chemin du Roy or road of the kings. The little towns along the road are picturesque and some contain shops and restaurants that are fun to visit. It would also be a great place for a bicycle tour because of the quiet country nature of most of it. It is a good day trip from the city. Another place to visit outside the city is Montmorency Falls. Once you hike to the top and wander around the trails to the far side, you can see the falls across from them instead of looking straight down, you realize how close you are to the city. The tall buildings of the newer part of the city are easily visible.

I can highly recommend a visit to Canada but you should know that they are not enamored with our current U.S. President. Friends in Winnipeg inquired about my political affiliation and declared that if I was a Trump supporter they were no longer interested in being friends. I had met them in Greece years ago on a spring break tour with my children. This anti-Trump sentiment was prevalent throughout the country.

Hope you enjoyed reading my adventures in Canada.


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Last modified on Thursday, 27 September 2018 20:36


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