Its been over a year and a half since our backpacks were strapped on our backs and we were shuffling from guesthouse to guesthouse. It has been very quiet lately on aroundtheworldonatoilet.com, but it hasn’t been so with our lives. Since being home Lianna had been working for an airline quite unhappily, until she went and landed a job with the biggest adventure travel company in Canada, G Adventures, formally known as GAP.
We’ve been back home for a while now, and are back into an everyday routine. Having both found employment, there are no immediate plans for another multi-month trip, but we do find ourselves constantly looking back on the last year with no regrets and memories which will surely last our lifetime. Its been an amazing journey and we are glad we were able to share all our stories and photos with all of our followers through our blog.
We have compiled some of our experiences backpacking Asia, the Middle East and Europe into a 4 minute video. We hope you enjoy it.
originally published Jan 16,2011
Of all the lists describing the great culinary countries, you would be hard pressed to ever come across one that include Canada. While pasta is synonymous with Italy, rich creamy sauces with the French, Canada has…. maple syrup? Thankfully this is not the case and one Canadian city that sets the bench mark for Canadian Cuisine is Montreal.
It was only a short hop over the border from Vermont to get to Montreal and once we checked into our accommodations in the Plateau district we set out on our first mission. A week prior I had made the phone call to Au Pied Du Cochon, an infamous restaurant with a cult like following hoping I would be able to secure some reservations. My initial plans of a late Saturday night dinner were halted when I found out that the entire weekend had been booked except for one seating at 5:00pm on Friday night. After seeing the gluttonous Anthony Bourdain describe the place on his TV show over 2 years ago, I vowed that the next time I was in Montreal I would eat here. The seating could have been at 6am, I was not going to miss out.
My idea was to go all out and order everything that sounded good. Bad idea at this restaurant. Portions come hearty and heavy. This is not a healthy dining option or a light meal in any sense. Foie Gras, the fattened liver of a goose or duck is a specialty here and despite the controversy surrounding the product, Martin Piccard has an entire section of his menu dedicated to this rich fatty organ meat. First up was Foie Gras Poutine.
For those of you who may not be familiar with Poutine, this is the quintessential French Canadian indulgence. Fries smothered with gravy and cheese curds make a tough to beat combination and I have long been a fan. Au Pied Du Cochon steps it up a notch adding fries fried in duck fat with gravy, curds, foie gras sauce and of course a massive lobe of foie gras layed over the top. Pure insanity!
After such a light entree, my idea of a multi course meal had gone out the window. It would be a shame not to sample some of the pig products, after all the translation of the restaurant name is At the Pigs Foot. The foot was just about the only part of the pig which didn’t make it into my next dish titled the melting pot. Pork belly, blood sausage, pork chop and sausage come together on top of some of the richest mashed potatoes I have had. All this with a white wine sauce and served in a cast iron pot. Lianna opted for something a little on the safe side with some piglet ribs and mash. Desert was certainly not an option as we waddled our way through downtown Montreal to hopefully burn some calories off.
Despite the rain the following day we continued to explore the city on foot. We wandered in and out of the many bakeries, boutiques and charcuterie shops all the while baffled by how different Montreal seemed than our home city of Toronto.
When the rain proved too much to handle, we were lucky to be near Montreal’s most famous Deli. No trip to this city would be complete without a stop at Schwartz famous for its smoked meat. I first developed a taste for this stuff when my mom would return home from weekends visiting friends in Montreal with pounds upon pounds of the stuff wrapped in butchers paper. Over the following few days this would be my breakfast, lunch and dinner. Montreal smoked meat is similar to pastrami (actually im not sure of the difference) and tourists and locals alike jostle for space inside the tiny deli. The atmosphere of a crowded bustling cafeteria are just as good as the food itself.
Our last stop on the “Foodie Trail” was purposely saved until our last few minutes in the city. After we packed up our things and loaded the car we drove to the Jewish part of town for Montreal’s most emblematic baked good. Bagels.
St. Viateur has built a reputation of baking some of the best bagels in town and they come out of the hot oven in the dozens. Good thing too cause by the time we left we had 3 dozens (minus a few enjoyed on the way home) that needed to go right into our freezer at home.
The daily grind was starting to feel endless. I couldn’t believe it had been almost a year since we’d been back from our last trip, and I hadn’t been away for longer than 2 days since. We had less than a week available for holidays, so we looked at our options within a close range to Toronto. Having been to very little of the North East US, we decided to hop in the car and take a scenic drive through the Adirondacks to Vermont.
After a quick stop in Buffalo for a taste of the worlds first Buffalo wings, we headed east in the dark, stopping to sleep before we hit an area already awash with beautiful fall colours. We aren’t exactly ‘leafers’, we do live in Canada so we aren’t new to the beauties of autumn, but we were hoping for a shock of colour amongst a new setting.
As soon as we entered Adirondack Park, we started seeing bursts of red, auburn and yellow, amongst the still-green trees. We stopped to take some pictures but when we wound our way toward the tops of mountains, hillsides all turned to fire and we couldn’t stop commenting on how beautiful everything was.
After a quick ferry on Lake Chaplain, we departed New York and entered Vermont, where we made our way to Burlington. One of the coolest cities we’ve been to, Burlington is the largest city in Vermont, but with only about 42 thousand people, 3 colleges an assortment of boutique shops and restaurants and a super liberal, environmental atmosphere, it feels anything but an average ‘big’ city.
We picked up more than a few grocery bags full of local food at the main grocery store in Burlington, where the amount of local and organic food completely outnumbered generic brands. The quality and care in that grocery store made us hopeful for a way of life we didn’t know people led! Excited to taste our bag of goodies, we GPS’ed our way to a cabin we rented in the Charlotte countryside.
When we travel for extended periods we tend to use hostels as our accommodations, this time, however, we found an artistic little hideaway that was the perfect spot to spend our short holiday.
The cabin is on the banks of Lewis Creek where, in the morning Nick threw some casts for Trout, and in the evening, we cooked our meals while it poured rain outside. The rustic interior was the perfect environment to kick back and enjoy some classic comfort food and a few bottles of wine. It was only a short drive into Burlington and to Stowe, a historic character filled city which is famous for the ski resorts like Smuggler’s Notch Resort and Stoweflake Mountain Resort.
After driving through Vermont we noticed that despite the colours in New York, Vermont itself hadn’t gotten to it’s peak yet and if this was your sole reason for traveling in the area, It would be best to check out some of the foliage reports online.
Feeling relaxed from all the fresh air, we loaded up the car, glad we weren’t headed back home just yet. We were driving North to Montréal to gorge ourselves on some of Montréal’s fatty delicacies and lounge around in the coffee shops around the Plateau District.
While spending time abroad and experiencing new and different things each day, It was easy to find excitement and interest in all the sights and sounds this world has to offer. It becomes increasingly difficult to view your own country through that same set of eyes. Being away for so long really left me with a desire to see my homeland especially when I come from a country so large and full of natural beauty that I have barely scratched the surface of. I decided I would start with somewhere close to home, Algonquin Park.
My good friend Fraser has long talked about making a trip deep into Algonquin Provincial Park interior for we had both been on short weekend long trips but never ventured too far into the back country. This might sound like a suicide trip with two novice outdoors men venturing into the wilderness but a little pre trip reading, some maps purchased and of course some essential skills like starting a fire, pitching tarps and tents and your well on your way. Despite being a massive expanse of swamps, lakes and rivers, Algonquin has a network of marked portages and canoe routes and should you get lost, its as simple as finding the nearest campsite on your map and getting a bearing.
We chose to go in May for experiencing some of the parks pristine trout fishing was high on the list of priorities although black flies and mosquitoes were quite a concern at this time of year. Thankfully the fish were biting and the bugs were not as bad as expected. We also chose to enter through the North gate at the town of Brent, 5 hours from Toronto in hopes of avoiding any sort of crowding which can sometimes happen on popular routes. We chose our route wisely and only saw the signs of one other group in our full 6 days in the park.
With fear of giving up some now top secret fishing spots I will not recite our daily itinerary but our route was to paddle up the Petawawa river via Catfish lake and Burntroot before caneoing down the Nippissing River. The travel days were sometimes long with some strenous portages in the rain but some things are just not meant to be easy.
In the end, the trip was a major success with plenty of great fish caught and some great wildlife seen including 6 moose, bald eagles and beavers. Now that my sore muscles have heeled and my bug bites are no longer swollen, I am already planning my next foray through this amazing land in central Ontario. I hope you enjoy the photos.
Travel can mean so many things. It can mean spending a week relaxing on the beach, or pushing yourself to climb a mountain. It can mean leisurely wandering European streets where no one speaks your language, or going on a road trip in your own country.
This week Nick and myself experienced two vastly different types of travel, myself flying standby for two hectic days in the largest city in the United States, and Nick spending a week in Canada’s oldest provincial park.
Working for an airline can have it’s benefits. Leaving as soon as my shift ended on Tuesday, my sister Nicole, friend Laurie and myself were off to New York. After landing we were pleasantly surprised by the drastic difference in weather from a city so close to home – we departed our cool, wet spring, to arrive to summer in New York. After taking 3 or 4 trains and subways we arrived in Brooklyn, where we quickly found our awesome B&B, ’3B’. Having previously stayed in Manhattan, when booking accommodations this time around I had my eyes set on Brooklyn, only venturing into Manhattan to visit our must-see-sites.If you are having trouble find a a cheap place to stay in this massive metropolis you can try to find a cheap hotel in New York at the lowest rate guarantee with Easytobook.com
We decided to get on the subway and get off somewhere in the lower east side for our long awaited dinner. After bellies full of Mexican beans and sangria, we eagerly set out to explore as much as possible, feeling slightly pressured by our lack of time.
We did pretty well, walking through the humid streets of Little Italy, Bowery, Lower East Side and ending off when we emerged from the subway to Times Square where it seemed to be daylight again.
We awoke the next morning intent on walking around Manhattan for the entire day, before retreating to a restaurant and bar in Brooklyn to celebrate Laurie’s birthday. We spent most of the warm perfection of Wednesday ambling around Central Park, with our treasured treats from Bouchon Bakery. Soon enough it was time to get back and get ready for our dinner at a restaurant on Smith st. Our mediocre meal was followed by a small bar named ‘camp,’ where we sat on tree stumps, washed our hands in basins made from buckets, and played trivial pursuit with some new friends. The ironic parallel to Nick’s trip was not lost on me.
Even with the bars closing 2 hours later than ours do, we weren’t yet ready to end our New York trip, so we headed back to the Park Slope rooftop of our our new friends to watch the sunrise over the Manhattan skyline. Why go to sleep when we can sleep all day tomorrow at home…?
…working for an airline has it’s downfalls. Flying standby is an evil, evil thing when there are weather delays. Our arrival time back to Toronto was scheduled to be approximately 2:30pm, and when we missed the curfew for our airport, we were scheduled to go to a further airport, then when we missed that curfew we arrived at an even further airport at 2 in the morning.
Going straight to work without sleeping for 2 full days is a bit of a sour ending to any trip, but in the end we got to truly experience New York as the city that never sleeps.
When it came time for us to leave Jerusalem, our money was running low and we needed to get to Egypt as soon as possible. This would not be as easy as we imagined for it was a Saturday, the day of the Jewish Sabath. This creates a few problems for two people hoping to get from point A to B on the holy Jewish day. The normal government buses were not running and we were forced to detour to Tel Aviv in order to get the first bus down to the border town of Eilat. We luckily arrived at the shared taxi’s to Tel Aviv at the right moment just as two young Norweigns were negotiating a fare so we joined them. It took almost the entire day of waiting around and transport hopping to get to Eilat but around 10 at night we were able to cross the border.