Day Thirty-Six

I started my Victoria Day, known as National Patriotes’ Day here in Québec, with a “sufferers’ breakfast” with Christine and Haylee. Josh and Mitch joined us after a while, killing time before they had to leave for the airport to catch their flights. We spent the morning and most of the afternoon talking about everything from our greatest going out stories to our worst and most annoying travel experiences (you never know what you’ll get when you order “fries” in North America, apparently). Eventually the boys had to leave, which was heartbreaking.

With goodbyes exchanged with wishes for future plans, Haylee, Christine, and I settled in to come up with a plan for the day. We had time to kill before the hostel group headed out to Piknic Électronik, so we got caught up on the latest episode of Game of Thrones. We all needed some rest after that, so we broke to take naps.

We met up with the rest of the hostel crew in the lobby, then Gabrielle led us to Parc Jean-Drapeau for Piknic Électronik. Every Sunday (or holiday Monday) in the summer, DJs come into Parc Jean-Drapeau to play from about noon to 9:30 pm. There are a few different stages, lots of places to chill out, and plenty of food trucks and tent bars to enjoy while you’re in the park. One of the spots we started in actually had a cool soccer-billiards game set up that some people from the hostel enjoyed for a while before we all moved to the big stage to see Ben UFO and Four Tet, both DJs from the UK.

As everyone moved to the big stage, I went back to the entrance to meet up with none other than Megan! I’m so excited that we got to meet up for the third time on this trip and enjoy Piknic together with the hostel group. We danced the night away, but somehow Megan and I lost everyone else.

She and I hopped on the métro back to our respective hostels and made a plan to meet up again tomorrow and execute our supreme karaoke plan for tomorrow’s pub crawl.

When I got back to the hostel, I stopped in to make some food and hang out with everyone at the bar. I had a conversation about Judy Garland with an 85-year-old painter who was staying for the night before decided it was time to turn in before 4:00 am at least one night while here in Montréal.

I did make arrangements to stay here an extra day and I’m so excited. I don’t know exactly what I’ll do tomorrow, but I’m sure it will be another great day in this awesome city with these wonderful people. It’s been a great May Long here, and even with the extra day, I’ll be really sad to leave.

I also got a few messages from Josh tonight saying his flight was delayed and he might come join us for Piknic, but ultimately he wasn’t able to. He, Mitch, and I are hoping to plan a trip together sometime after my first contract, though, so we’ll see each other again soon!

Day Thirty-Five

Another morning, another massive struggle to get out of bed. I hopped in the shower to try to wake up and saw a message from Mitch letting me know he and Josh were headed to breakfast if I’d like to join when I got out.

I threw my things together and walked up to meet them at Bagel & Café and ordered myself their delicious bagel French toast, replete with Nutella, strawberries, maple syrup, and apples. The three of us sat enjoying the sun for about an hour, laughing as we caught Josh up on the night before. We also enjoyed the people watching, since we saw plenty of great characters walking through downtown. The three of us share a pretty similar sense of humor largely held up by the pillar of paying people out, so it was the perfect way for us to spend the morning.

We made a quick trip back to the hostel to grab sunglasses and sunscreen before making the trek to Parc Mont-Royal for a Montréal summer tradition: the Tam-Tams. I weren’t sure exactly where in the park we’d find this weekly drum circle gathering, so we hike up to the top of the mountain to see the view of downtown Montréal, which was stunning. We continued to hike around for a while, constantly listening for the sound of the drums that signaled the Tam-Tams.

We took a break to grab some ice cream and admire some fearless raccoons before winding our way down the mountain, where the drums started to get louder. We got through break in the trees and saw the thousands of people gathered near the George-Étienne Cartier monument. They were slacklining, playing some kind of strange hacky-sack/volleyball combo, dancing around the drum ciricles, and drinking and smoking unabashedly despite the police roaming through the crowds. It was a pretty insane thing to see, especially when we considered that it happens every Sunday when the weather starts to improve. If you’re ever in Montréal for one, you really do have to go.

We found a wall to sit on and engage some more in our favorite activity: people watching. There were so many different kinds of people to watch too. If you’ve ever been to the Minnesota State Fair, you have somewhat of an idea of the cross-section of humanity you’re likely to see at a Tam-Tams.

We stayed for about an hour before heading off to get food at Brigade Pizzeria Napolitaine. They make wonderful wood-fired pizzas. Mitch and Josh had been there before, and I can totally understand why they wanted to go back again. Over dinner we swapped stories about childhood, spent both on and off leashes, before taking a bizarre turn into stories about our countries’ most notorious serious killers and unsolved crimes.

After dinner, we made the rest of the walk back to the hostel, meeting up with Haylee down in the hostel bar. We also met Christine from San Diego, Nils from Germany, and James and Matt from Australia. We bemoaned the mass of middle school students who’d rocked up to the hostel a few nights before, and roared as Josh told us about his bogan-accented encounter with a group of them who wouldn’t move out of the way of his door (“Excuse me, PLEASE!”). We also got into a debate about whether or not breaking the seal is a real thing, because that’s just the sort of odd, hilarious conversation you get into at hostels.

Nils, Mitch, Josh, and I decided we weren’t ready to end the night, so we walked up to country bar near the hostel. It was Sunday, so the place wasn’t very full. We grabbed some drinks and threw some darts until close, then grabbed late-night food at McDonald’s.

We all said goodnight when we got back to the hostel. I made sure Josh and Mitch knew not to leave without saying goodbye tomorrow. I’m so bummed to see them go, but luckily some of the others I’ve met are hanging on a bit longer. I think I might extend my stay here in Montréal, since I do have some tickets left to work with on my rail pass.

Day Thirty-Four

I unabashedly ignored my alarm when it went off this morning, but I was able to pull myself out of bed in time to meet up with the tour group for the walk to Old Montréal. Our tour leader, Gabrielle, is from Montréal and did a great job of taking us through cool parts of the city on the way to Old Montréal. We saw Centre Bell, home of the Canadians; Basilique-Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde, where I lit a candle for graduation; a square with a statue of Queen Victoria and a beautiful métro gate that was a gift from Paris, were Gabrielle told us about all kinds of little symbols of the English-French rivalry throughout the city; the Crew Café, whose bar is an old banking tellers’ desk; and Cathédrale Notre-Dame. Then she took us down Rue Saint-Paul, the tourist centre of Old Montréal, before ending the tour outside city hall.

Bonnie was on the tour with me, and so was Haylee, a girl from Adelaide who was on the pub crawl with us last night. When Gabrielle left, we went back towards a café she’d pointed out earlier, Olive + Gourmando, to get a bit to eat. We took our food down to the Old Port and had a little picnic before walking around a bit to see the Cirque du Soliel Lutzia tent.

The three of us walked back to the hostel to rest up for a bit before tonight’s pub crawl. I went down to the hostel bar and lounge and found Josh and Mitch. We hung for a bit and I tried to talk them into coming on the crawl. They went to go rest for a bit and try to decide if they’d come out or not, then Haylee asked me me if was keen to go to the supermarket with her. The two of us found a little supermarché not far from the hostel and picked up some basics. When we got back, we both whipped up quick dinners and as we were eating she decided she would come out with us on the crawl tonight.

She and I went to get ready then met up with Mitch in the lobby so we could make our way to the métro and on to the first bar. The crawl tonight wasn’t run by the hostel, so we had to meet up with the larger group at Vol de Nuit. We saw more people from the hostel once we got there, including Tom and Ryan. Tom was actually wearing one of those really ridiculous Justin Trudeau fantasy sweaters, which made him quite the popular guy all night long, and in my opinion was a much better hilarious fashion decision than the stag party we saw that were all dressed as penguins.

We didn’t say at Vol de Nuit for long before going to TRH. I was excited to be back, but they weren’t playing the same great music tonight as they did last night in the beginning. Of course, just as things started to pick up there, it was time to move on to Rouge, a nightclub that was so packed we could hardly moved. Eventually we wrestled our way into corner where we could all breathe a bit more. We danced for a while before the crawl leader went on a lap through the club to lead us to the last stop for the night, Muzique. Muzique wasn’t as packed as Rouge, which I appreciated, and they were playing pretty standard, fun pop and dance music. Somewhere along the way, Haylee disappeared, and shortly after Mitch and I decided to go home.

I’m feeling totally wiped now after two big days of walking and nights out, so I’m glad that the only thing on my agenda for tomorrow doesn’t start until 2:00 pm. Now it’s time for some serious sleep!

Day Thirty-Three

Last night, I had to assure myself I wasn’t hearing anything more than normal whispers and footsteps that the walls had been designed to magnify so the guards could hear prisoners before I finally wrestled myself in to sleep. When I was finally out, I was out like a light, so I was a little startled when my alarm went off.

Senem and I grabbed breakfast at Mugshots before walking to the Rideau Centre to grab our bus out to the train station. We got dropped at the station just as they started boarding my train, so she and I said our goodbyes and I hopped in line.

The ride to Montréal was short, but the train smacked of small, screaming, crying children and parents who were letting them run all over the place and invade other people’s space, so I was chomping at the bit to get out of there, though I was bummed that I didn’t have the chance to finish watching Being Canadian, which was a very enjoyable, funny documentary.

It was a quick walk up Boulevard René Lesveque to get to the hostel. I was there before check-in started, so they let me dump my bag in the storage room. I whipped up a quick playlist of French music to listen to so I could try to switch into my “French brain” before setting out for a little romp around the area.

I walked over to Rue Sainte-Catharine, which is a big shopping street in Montréal. I stopped into a few shops and tied my hardest to speak French in every one. Overall I was pretty successful, though when I ordered food at a crêperie the clerk noticed that my accent wasn’t quite right and started answering all my questions in English. I asked the hostel staff about that later and they assured me that it’s not meant to be insulting; pretty much everyone in Montréal is totally bilingual, and if they can tell you’re speaking a language that maybe isn’t your native one, they’ll switch over to help.

Around 3:00 pm, I turned to head back towards the hostel. I saw a clipboard advertising a pub crawl for the night and signed myself up. I went to settle into my room and was joined by part of a Gaelic football team from Halifax who are all in town for a tournament. They are all really nice; they even asked me if I’d like to come as a sub tomorrow!

With all my things settled in, I got myself ready for my night out then went down to the hostel’s bar for some food and to meet up with the crawl group. I tried a sandwich with Montréal’s famous smoked meat and a bottle of La Fin du Monde, a Québec beer, and was not disappointed by either. I met Bonnie from Australia while I was sitting at the bar, and we wound up hanging out for most of the night.

The crawl left the hostel at about 9:30 pm. As we were walking to the métro to get to the first bar, I met Ryan and Tom, who are both med students at the University of Manitoba! At the first bar, Benelux, Bonnie and I sat at a table with Mitch, from Edmonton, and Josh, from Melbourne. Mitch and Josh had met on a Contiki Tour through Europe and had been traveling in NYC before they got to Montréal. They had lots of great stories from their time in Europe, including their quest to learn how to saw “I am moist” in a ton of different languages because they figured women all around the world would cringe as they heard it.

From Benelux, our crawl leader, Michael, led us to the Bar Bifteck. It was a drive kind of place with cheap beer, so we didn’t stay for too long. Ryan and Tom joined Bonnie, Josh, Mitch and I, and all of us Winnipegers talked about classic U of M and Winnipeg nightlife things like old Country Night at The Ranch and the hole that was AREA.

With our cheap beers downed, it was time to head to the last stop of the night, which was by far my favorite: TRH (pronounced “trash”). It was a skate bar, complete with a small caged skatepark in the middle. They were playing great 90s hiphop all night, but also threw in some break rock things like Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out” and “Lonely Boy” by The Black Keys. It is honestly probably one of the best bars I have ever been to. Our group danced for a while before going to take a breather on the patio.

Bonnie, Josh, Mitch, and I were all starting to feel a bit knackered, so we decided it was time to head back to the hostel. After making the disappointing discovery that . I ordered my meal in French, at which point Josh told me he needed me to scale back the French because I wasn’t fitting his image of the typical ignorant American, which got a good laugh from all of us. Food in hand, we walked the rest of the way back to the hostel to eat in the basement before all deciding it was time to finally get some sleep.

It is now a little after 4:00 am. I didn’t realize how late it would be, because I just assume bars close at 2:00 am like they do in Winnipeg, but they actually stay open till 3:00 am. I’m supposed to go on a walking tour of Old Montréal tomorrow that the hostel is hosting, so it’s definitely time to turn in so I’ll actually get up in time to leave with everyone!

Day Thirty-Two

Senem and I woke up around 9:00 am so we would have time to catch breakfast in the hostel’s restaurant, Mugshots, then hung around for a bit while we waited for the tour of the jail to start.

The tour totally spooked all of us out, and I now understand why most people recommend going on it on the morning you check out. It started out showing us the solitary confinement cells in the basement (they still have some of the ball and chain restraints in the cells), where prisoners could be chained spread-eagle and facedown on the floor for anywhere from a few days to six months. We moved from to the restaurant, which used to operate as the debtor’s prison and the chapel. Then we went up into the stairs that lead to our rooms, where the guide told us that the suicide bars installed between flights were less to prevent prisoners from killing themselves and more to save guards whom escaping prisoners would try to throw over the stairs; three guards died this way before the bars were installed. She also told us that the basement level was used as the city’s quarantine facility; most of the people who went down there died due to lack of adequate care. She told us that 140 bodies were discovered near the jail when the ground as excavated for a construction project before telling us that only three people were ever hung at the Ottawa Jail to give us an idea of just how many died in quarantine and from guard’s punishments. We then went up to the upper cell blocks to see death row. The guide actually locked us in the cell that held Patrick Whelan — the first man hung at the jail and one of the rumored resident ghosts — to tell us all kinds of stories about people’s encounters with ghosts. She talked about ghost hunters whose cameras’ batteries went from fully charged to dead, were totally erased, and even filmed the footage upside down, as well as stories about a ghostly girl whose image was allegedly captured in a photo and how many guests claim to have seen a girl whose description matches that of the girl in the photo, without having ever seen the picture. Freaky. I was very eager to get out of the cell, though our next stop, the gallows and the stairs that led to them, was even creepier. Gallows are nasty in their own right, but the guide told us about the many times guards had been caught tying unsanctioned nooses for prisoners around the banisters of the staircase, and with that I was ready to not be in that staircase anymore; she said that other than the solitary cells downstairs, that staircase was the place prisoners feared the most. We ended the tour in the courtyard where the public would come to watch executions, and as soon as the guide told us the tour was over, Senem and I ran out of there, very ready to continue on with the less terrifying part of our day.

We walked up to Parliament Hill, passing the Rideau Canal on the way, and got tickets for one of the tours of the Centre Block. Unfortunately all the English tours were totally booked out, but I thought I had enough French to be able to understand a bit. My real focus was just seeing the inside of the building, so I wasn’t too concerned about the tour’s language. Tickets in hand for a tour at the end of the day, Senem and I walked around the lawn on the hill, checking out the Centennial Flame and enjoying the tulips still out from the Canadian Tulip Festival, which brings us to…

Weird Things I Learned from Other Travelers (or Tour Guides) Today:

Every year, the Dutch government gifts 10,000 tulip bulbs to Canada as a show of appreciation for Canada’s friendship to them during WWII. The Dutch royal family spent their exile during the war in Canada, and Princess Margriet was born in Ottawa. That day, the Dutch flag flew above the Peace Tower, the only time a foreign flag has ever done so.

We had a few hours to kill before the museums became free, so we walked up to 24 Sussex Drive, the residence of the Prime Minister. From what we could see, which really wasn’t much at all (there are way more trees shielding the property so you can’t get a good view of it like you can at the White House), Justin Trudeau wasn’t home. Bummer.

We made a quick swing back by the hostel after going to 24 Sussex to rest our feet, then grabbed a quick lunch from a bagel place in the ByWard Market so we could make a picnic in Major’s Hill Park. Our timing was perfect, because once we were done it was time to make our way to our first museum of the day.

We walked across the Alexandra Bridge and in two minutes we were across the river and in Québec. It was amazing to see how quickly everything changed. I had noticed how much more bilingual Ottawa was than anywhere I had been before, and while Gatineau was still bilingual, their focus was noticeably on French.

The museum we went to see in Gatineau was the Canadian Museum of History. Senem and I went down to the first floor to see the exhibit on the First Peoples of Canada, which was really well done. They had a collection of totem poles, as well as a set of long houses in the styles of different groups that had different cultural artifacts inside of them that explained the history, culture, and lifestyle of First Nation groups. The exhibit also had a section on prehistory of First Nation groups that included a reconstruction of an archaeological dig and a hall that featured stories about the role of the First Peoples in Canada today. They even had a theatre that was showing animated films by First Nations filmmakers that depicted different groups’ creation stories; the one Senem and I watched was actually one that I studied in my Canadian history course in school this year about how people first got fire. The Museum of History also had a display of Canadian stamps, which was pretty hilarious. The museum is also home to a children’s museum, but Senem and I decided to skip that part to go to our next museum.

We walked back into Ontario, past Parliament Hill, and down to the Canadian Museum of Nature. We were under a bit of time crunch to make it back to Parliament Hill in time our tour, but we still managed to see almost all of the galleries there, including the fossil gallery, mammal gallery, water gallery, and earth gallery. It was a really nice museum, but much smaller than the ROM.

We walked quickly back up to Parliament to get to our tour, or at least as quickly as we could since our feet were starting to turn on us after all the walking we’d been doing all day. We made it in time to have a few minutes to sit while we waited for the guide to pick us up.

We had to go through airport-style security to get into the Centre Block, but you could tell we were doing this in Canada, because the guards actually had a sense of humor about the whole thing. One of them actually joked with me by asking if I had any bazookas in my bag after asking the normal questions about pocket knives and mace — definitely not anything an American guard would have said.

Munro, our guide, was totally bilingual, so even though the tour was in French, she was abel to clarify questions I had in English as we walked from stop to stop within the tour. I was able to understand enough of what she said that I didn’t have too many questions and was even able to answer some of the questions she asked in French, which gave me a little confidence boost as I’m on my way to Québec tomorrow.

The Parliament building was totally gorgeous. We didn’t get to see the House of Commons, because they were in session, but we were able to see the rotunda, the Library of Parliament (one of the only original parts of the Centre block that didn’t burn in a fire years ago), and the Senate Chambers. I can’t compare it to the American Congress buildings, because I’ve never been there, but I can say that they were gorgeous and it was almost overwhelming to be in a place so obviously central to this country that I love so much.

After the tour, Senem and I had one thing and one thing only on our minds: food. We walked back up to the ByWard Market to see which of the pubs looked lively and settled on the Highlander Pub. They were playing the Blue Jays vs. Twins game and the Raptors vs. Cavaliers game, and they had live music, so it was a fun spot to spend part of our night.

After a few drinks and what may have been the most satisfying meal I’ve had in a long time, Senem and I were both feeling totally knackered. We walked back to the hostel to get ready for bed and to leave tomorrow. I took a shower and had what I briefly thought was a ghost encounter: my sandal fell off my foot and disappeared; I freaked out for a bit before realizing that my shoe had not been stolen by a ghost, but had just fallen into the shower next to mine through a gap between the wall and the floor.

Now that I was slightly wigged out, I ran through the dark hallway into the cell, packed up my things, and settled in. I’m feeling confident at the moment that I’ll be able to sleep fine tonight as long as I keep the tour out of my mind. Tomorrow morning I leave for Montréal, so I’m hoping to get a decent night’s sleep!

Day Thirty-One

I woke up in Niagara Falls in time to take advantage of the hostel’s free breakfast, a first for me since most of the hostels I’ve stayed at so far have always ended their breakfast before I like to get up for the day or haven’t offered it at all. I sat with a nice girl from Germany and traded travelers’ stories before it was time for me to head to the bus station.

I took a GO Transit bus from Niagara Falls to Burlington, then a GO Transit train from Burlington to Toronto, before finally getting on the VIA Rail train from Toronto to Ottawa. On the bus, I met a nice woman from Niagara on her way into Toronto. We ket each other company on the ride, and when we got into Toronto I was even able to help her find the subway she needed to get to her final destination — look at me go.

I kept falling asleep on the ride to Ottawa. Let’s just say that being able to feel every single spring in a mattress doesn’t lend itself to the best night’s sleep and I should ave stayed in the cuddle puddle.

The hostel was a short bus ride from the Ottawa train station. I had been tracking the route and realized I had gotten onto a 96 bus different from the one I actually wanted, but the blue dot the represented me was close enough to the red dot that was the hostel by the time that I got to the Rideau Centre that I hopped off, feeling fairly confident I’d be able to find the hostel from there. I was right — the hostel was right across the street. The only thing I had trouble with was finding the actual door into the hostel. I was very thankful to a man who had been on the bus with me who was able to point me in the direction of the door.

I got myself all checked in and made my way up to my cell. That’s right — my cell. The hostel in Ottawa used to be a jail. I took advantage of this in what may have been the most sinister prank I will ever play in my life. I called my mom and told her I was in jail. I was actually so nervous that my voice broke while I was telling her, which worked out in my favor, since it made the lie all the more believable. I said that there had been something wrong with my study permit; I had more of a story prepared, but I realized that it was time to come clean and explain that while I was not, in fact, in jail… at least not in the way she thought. This may seem like an awful thing to have done, but anyone who knows the Story of the Lemonade That Wasn’t knows that this recompense has been lying in wait for about thirteen years now.

With my mom no longer panicking about me being jailed in a foreign country, I went over to the Rideau Centre to pick up a replacement backpack because my little packable one had seen better days.

When I got back to the hostel, there was a girl in my room, who immediately asked me if I’d like to go out with her for the night. Senem is from Belgium and we had a great time walking around Ottawa. We went through the ByWard Market area, a big outdoor market and shop area that is also home to lots of pubs and bars, including Ottawa’s oldest, the Lafayette.

Senem and I explored for a while, then we went into the Aulde Dubliner for dinner and drinks. Their St. James Gate burger is fabulous, as was the Somersby cider both of us were sipping on for the night. After dinner, we made our way back to the hostel. We did get a little turned around with all the construction that had closed sidewalks, but being the strong, independent women that we are, we found our way back pretty quickly.

A quick glance at the event posters at the hostel showed us that almost all the museums in Ottawa are going to be free tomorrow, so we added that to our tentative plan for the next day.

Now it’s time to get off to bed for my first night in jail, night one of what I sincerely hope are the only two nights I’ll ever spend in a cell! It’s hard to believe that I’ve now been on this trip for exactly one month. It’s hard to believe it’s almost over, especially now that the feeling that I just started is beginning to creep up on me!

Day Thirty

I woke up this morning after a few shorts hours of sleep and was very reluctant to get out of bed; the murphy bed at the condo was so comfortable, and I knew what I was getting myself into when I got to the hostel tonight. Janette and I had a quick breakfast together and she walked me to the streetcar. I am going to miss Janette, Paul, and Jan as I continue on this trip. It’s been great to have people to do things with every day, or at the very least people I knew I would get to see at the end of the day and share the adventures with. The nomad life is really fun, but there’s something really nice about having a kind of home base to come back to every day, and I’m so thankful to Janette, Paul, and Caileigh for giving me while I was in Toronto.

I took the streetcar to the subway, then the subway for just one stop to get to Union Station and board the VIA Rail train to Niagara Falls. I thought this would be an easy process, but I was wrong. Union Station is under a ton of construction and there are so many different forms of transportation that leave from it that I couldn’t quite find the right Gate 20. I was running around the station, very tight on time, in a bit of a panic that I would miss my train. I finally found someone who worked for VIA (after somehow managing to take the PATH out of the station altogether and wandering around the ACC for a while) and they got me moving the right way.

I ran onto the train just as they were getting ready to shut down boarding and was greeted by perhaps the peppiest, friendliest, warmest person I’ve come across on the trains since Patrick. The train I was on was actually an Amtrak en route to NYC, and the interior was clearly much newer than the cars I was in on The Canadian.

I worked on writing and reading on the way until my light sleep caught up with me and I took an emergency nap until hitting Niagara Falls. The hostel was only a block’s walk from the station. I got in a little after 10:00 am, so I couldn’t check in yet, but they let me dump my bags so I wouldn’t have to walk around with them all day.

The walk to the falls didn’t take too long, and I could see New York just across the river. It was almost tempting to walk across the bridge with my passport, just to be able to say that I had. I resisted, and instead enjoyed the views of both the American and Canadian Horseshoe Falls. My grandma told me the falls were better from the Canadian side, and I must say that I agree.

I saw the little falls tour cruises going back and forth on both sides of the river, Maid of the Mists in their blue ponchos from the U.S. and Hornblower with their red ponchos from Canada, and after checking to see how much it would be I decided I had to do it. I bought a ticket and ten minutes later I was on the boat cruising towards the falls. If you’re ever in Niagara, make sure you do it. The view of the falls from the water are so great, and driving into the mists kicked up by the Canadian Horseshoe Falls is 100% worth how wet anything poking out of the poncho will get. And don’t make my mistake and wear glasses; you can’t see much anyway, but it’s a little annoying to get stuck with watered and misted up glasses that you can’t clean because it would be pointless.

I was thankful to the sun for finally making its way out once I got off, since it allowed me to dry off a bit. I kept walking down the parkway the city has set up all the way to the Visitors’ Centre outside the Canadian Falls, because I’d heard there was a spot where you could look almost directly down the falls at the falling water; itwas pretty intense to see!

I grabbed a quick lunch from Timmie’s and made myself a little picnic by the falls before walking back towards the hostel. I took a quick detour up a street that was basically a massive midway, lined with haunted houses, funhouses, kitschy shops, and restaurants like Planet Hollywood and the Hard Rock Café. I got the feeling then that Niagara Falls was a sleepy town, just starting to wake up in anticipation of their insane summer season and was thankful I was there when I was. There were big crowds on the cruise and down on the walk, but I can only imagine now what it must be like in peak season.

My phone was dying, and so were my feet, so I walked the rest of the way back to the hostel to plug in and take a nap that I needed in a big way. When I woke up, I had time to walk to the whirlpool area before dinner. After I saw the whirlpool, I headed towards the Q, Niagara Falls’ downtown district.

Paul had told me that there was a great BBQ place in town, Jeffro’s BBQ, and I thought it would be as good a place as any to grab food. Walking down the street, I thought it was strangely quiet, then saw that a few blocks ahead it was blocked off. Turns out, I was there for their weekly car show, Cruising on the Q, so everyone was up in that area. Jeffro’s was right on the corner where the car show started, so there was lots of good people-watching to enjoy while I munched on a melt-in-your-mouth brisket sandwich.

I made a quick walk back to the hostel after taking a picture in one of the cars, then decided to take the night to do a little TV catch-up, since this hostel actually had functional internet. I went down the hostel’s basement lounge to find that I had it — and its massive, fantastic cuddle puddle set-up — all to myself. I plugged my laptop into the TV, turned on the SNL Prince special, and sprawled out on the sea of beanbags and pillows.

Now it’s time to rest up. I have to catch my first ride tomorrow morning at 10:27 to start my very own On to Ottawa Trek!