Monday, July 3, 2017

To Canada

Coming off the back of arguably the hardest term in the history of teaching, we’ve taken off in an attempt to make our first complete circumnavigation of the globe.

In a family where I am not the organised one and Geoff is OCD about the way the plates are lined up in the dishwasher, we have an interesting reversal of roles when it comes to travel planning. Months out I have an itinerary, flights and accommodation booked, kilometres between stop overs meticulously recorded, a google doc and a google map with places of interest colour coded and menus of possible restaurants saved in my bookmarks. Geoff and Taine have a vague idea that we’re going somewhere in Canada, followed by Ireland. I have separate packing cells for each type of clothing, pages of notes about each destination and a bag full of pills and potions for every possible travel illness. Geoff gets up the day we go, throws 4 pairs of undies, 2 tshirts and his black shorts in a bag and off we go. Once we get to the airport however, the roles reverse. I hand over all the plans and my passport and Geoff takes control. I don’t drive, I don’t barter with shop keepers and, where possible, I don’t carry things.

We might have forked out the price of a small (second hand) car in airfares but we are very frugal travellers at heart so we spent our pre flight night at the Ibis Budget at the airport. Budget is an accurate description. You couldn’t swing a cat in the tiny room with 2 single beds under an overhead bunk, reminiscent of the cabin on the Spirit of Tasmania.

Luckily on our trek to the airport at 3.30 am we came across some abandoned trolleys outside Maccas. Clearly other budget travellers had passed this way before.
We checked into our Australia – Canada leg at Melbourne domestic. Because all the flights are on one ticket, despite transferring in Sydney and Vancouver, our bags were checked all the way through to Toronto. Too easy.
Transit in Vancouver

All we had to do was get on and off the plane at the appropriate times and although 19 hours is an unnaturally long time to sit in a metal tube, at least there weren’t any tedious airport stop overs.
We lost track of the time zone changes but at the end of the (very) long day, we had travelled 17,000 km, seen the sun rise twice over the wing of the plane and travelled back in time 14 hours.
Luckily the food on Air Canada was reasonable and the drinks cart passed frequently. Like very hungry caterpillars we ate our way through 3 breakfasts, a lunch, a dinner, 3 rounds of bourbon, 2 bottles of wine, copious coffee and the entire contents of the snack cart that they store near the rear toilets.

No one really slept and we arrived in Toronto exactly 24 hours after taking off from Melbourne with that dazed and foggy feeling that only new mothers and long distance travellers can understand.
Still feeling the burn of being ripped off by a taxi driver in Paris a couple of years ago, we opted for the UP Express train to the city. This was a great deal at $25 for a family ticket. The train deposited us at Union station, right beside the Rogers Centre where the fans were just spilling out after a Blue Jays game. It felt a bit like landing on the set of an American movie – hundreds of people in blue and white baseball gear, hot dog stalls on the sidewalk etc.

On the map, it didn’t look all that far to our hotel in Chinatown so we set off walking. Some nice Canadians took pity on our puzzled map studying and offered directions. They said it probably was a bit far to walk but of course that just added to the challenge! Given we’d left home in 3C, the sunny 28C was a tad warm but at least the exercise helped level out the melatonin and by the time we got to the Downtown Super 8 (super being quite a strong superlative in this case) we were wide awake.
There’s an abundance of fast food in Chinatown. We settled on ‘Franks’, a hamburger and hot dog joint where we had our first encounter with poutine. Poutine is like Clarke’s chips with cheese & gravy on steroids. Our fries were covered in gravy, pulled pork, onions, tomatoes, cheese curds – and an egg! Definitely near the top of the list of best things ever eaten.

Back to the Super 8, shower, blog, bed.

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