5 Days in Canada

Looking back at Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan. The bridge in the background carries cars between the US and Canada.

I didn’t plan to go through Canada.

In fact, our plan was to drive through Michigan, Ohio, and New York state to get to the east coast of the United States.

Yet, suddenly we were handing over our passports and entering a foreign land. I’m so glad we did!

Canada never seemed that exciting or different from Minnesota to me. It is true that Canada is very similar to Minnesota; however, it is still a foreign country with different currency, different laws, and the metric system.

I had never driven into a foreign country before, so I was a little nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. Crossing the border was not a big deal. We had to wait in line for about 20 minutes and show them our passports, but that’s it. Pretty simple.

We ended up couchsurfing with a woman who was brewing some beer with some friends that night. Interestingly, her brew supplies came from Northern Brewer in St. Paul, MN and she was brewing Surly Furious, a Minneapolis beer. It was like we were in Minneapolis, except for the excessive use of “eh”. Haha. 🙂

Our Couchsurfing Host had two cats!

Our host told us about a cute little farmer’s market, some hiking trails, and a you-pick strawberry farm. Perfect! So that’s what we did!

Part of the trail was flooded.
The most beautiful, sweet, delicious organic strawberries from Flood’s Farm.

After spending one day in Sault Sainte Marie, we headed to Ottawa, the capital of Canada. We couchsurfed with a woman who was going on a 9 month traveling adventure starting in September!

The sunsets in Ottawa were spectacular.

On one of the days, we biked around Gatineau Park, which was about a 30 minute drive from downtown Ottawa. This park is HUGE! It is about 136 square miles, which is about 87,000 acres. If you go, stop by the visiter’s center first. For at least 30 minutes, we tried to figure out what bike route to take and after just a 5 minute conversation with the helpful woman at the visiter’s center, we had a great route that took us to the best view in the park. And we got a free map.

We were told by at least three different sources that Gatineau Park had challenging hills. They weren’t kidding! We biked up one hill for about 6 miles in our lowest gear. Everyone around us looked like they had been training for the next Tour de France for at least a decade. The views were spectacular.

The ride down the hill was terrifying and exhilarating. I wished we had our bike helmets though…

Taking a break at Huron Overlook.
Having a picnic at Etienne Brule Overlook.
Resting at Champlain Overlook before biking down the hill.

Our second day in Ottawa was spent touring the Parliament building, which were free. Canada is nice like that. This was our first real tourist-y thing we’ve done since leaving home. The Parliament building is mostly made up of gothic-style stonework. It is fairly new since it burned down in 1919 and had to be rebuilt afterwards.

In the summer, there is a free light show every evening on the Parliament building. It was fascinating to learn about Canadian history in Canada. The light show consisted of many references that Martin and I didn’t understand, but we did notice those references again as we were walking around the city.

Our final stop in Canada was Montreal. Again, we couchsurfed with a kind man who had just moved into his apartment two weeks ago! Montreal is strange because it feels very much like a foreign country, yet it still feels a bit like Canada. Everything is in French only instead of both French and English.

We went for a 20 mile bike ride around Montreal before heading back to the US. I was astonished at how bike-able Montreal is! We ended up stopping at the top of Mont Royal, biking through Chinatown and the old port, eating lunch at Atwater Market, and navigating the confusing city streets. We were exhausted when we got back to the car, but we were happy.

The top of Mont Royal, looking over downtown Montreal.
Chinatown in Montreal
Lunch at Atwater Market. 

Canada was a great first foreign country to visit. It boosted my confidence for being able to navigate a car in another country. All of the people we met along the way were so kind and generous. It was a great way to kick off our trip!

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