Niagara Falls and Montreal
I haven’t decided if titling these posts with the place I am or have been is the way forward, but I haven’t got anything better just yet so that’ll do for now. I’m writing this from room 3021 of the Sheraton Hotel in Montreal. That’s right - Sheraton Hotel - thanks to my brother and his Sheraton points which scored us a free stay. Needless to say, it’s something of a contrast to the Global Village Backpackers that I was in for the last week. And rightly so - I could have stayed there for a month for the cost of two nights here. Still, I’m not paying - minibar included - so I’m not complaining.
That I’m even here is something of a miracle. Thursday was a trip to Niagara Falls thanks to the Moose Travel Network. If you’re going to go, then check them out, you’ll get a great tour, probably better than you’d get if you just get a bus there. Big props to Brian - our “tour guide” - who was really just a fun loving guy who was incredibly knowledgeable about most things Canadian. Niagara Falls is a weird place. The falls are impressive, especially when you get a soaking on the Maid of the Mist, which is well worth doing to get up close and personal. The sheer amount of water that flows over them is incredible and it’s a reminder of the power of Mother Nature. Unfortunately, though, Niagara Falls is no longer just the Falls and is a reminder of the horror of the modern world. The town of Niagara Falls has morphed in to a horrific monster of an amusement arcade. Think Alton Towers meets Blackpool - and you still won’t really get exactly how tacky it really is. Forget that there’s every possible hotel chain there, not to mention two casinos and a golf course, but the haunted houses and the shops selling dollar t-shirts are just too much. It’s really that bad. Don’t get me wrong, the falls are incredible - despite the horrible colour changing lights they switch on when it gets dark - but the surrounding area would really benefit from being razed to the ground.
Getting back to Toronto at about 8pm, after some 4 hours in a bus, the obvious requirement of the moment was a beer. Fellow tripgoer Melissa and I headed to the hostel bar where a quick refreshing beer turned in to four which then turned in to going to a club with a random Australian (who was still spitting feathers at losing in the rugby) and a brother and sister from NZ, who, interestingly enough, were here to contest the world Rock Paper Scissors championship. It is as ridiculous as it sounds, but they got a free to trip to Canada, so I don’t think they were complaining. We found a small club in the middle of nowhere and after surviving the full body cavity search just to get in, we were pleased that it was moreorless happy hour prices all night. Bearing in mind that I was due to be on a coach for some 8 hours at 930am the following day, it perhaps wasn’t the best idea to stay out drinking ’til 3am. Fortunately Mel knew the way back to the hostel, otherwise I’d probably still be wandering about Toronto.
Friday morning, 9am and I’ve only just woken up, with a fairly brutal hangover, an unpacked bag and a 30 minute walk to the coach station. I made it - somehow - to the coach on time, and spent the rest of the day in a hungover daze. No rest for the wicked though as dinner and drinks with my brother in Montreal in North America’s largest indoor chargrill (= amazing steak), meant I woke up with a hangover, yet again, with the prospect of all day drinking ahead of us with England vs France in the afternoon.
Montreal is a pretty cool city. It’s bizarre to be driving along the highway where the signs suddenly change from being in English to being in French. I can’t say I’ve seen anything inherently French about the place, but then I don’t know the history well enough to say if that was to be expected. But I like it and think that if I was to spend any serious amount of time in Canada, then it would probably be in Montreal. That said, I haven’t exactly done a great deal of sightseeing in either Toronto or Montreal (much too busy sleeping or drinking, oops) so maybe I should reserve judgement until I have time to come back to Canada and do it all again properly.
Actually, I seem to have set a precedent on my trip. I’ve only been gone 6 days and I’ve had 5 hangovers. Hopefully my bank balance will preclude that sort of behaviour soon as my trip goes southwards in to the good ol’ US of A.
UPDATE: Cooome ooooooooooooooooowwwnnn EEEEEEEEEENNNNNNNNNNGGLLLAAND! What a result. Not the best game of rugby ever (marginally better than Australia) but still a win is a win is a win and we’re now in the finals. I never doubted them for a second. I’m undecided who I’d like to see against us - on one hand the Argies because I think we’d have more chance of beating them but on the other, a chance to avenge our humiliation to the Springboks earlier in the tournament would be very very tasty indeed.