I checked out of the Chateau soon after midday and on my way to Hertz, I did a bit of touristy shopping and one last museum/chapel. This Chapel was burnt down in the 1800's, so they rebuilt it with mostly sheet metal. They did a really good job making the sheet metal look like marble and wood! Lots of Saints relics (bones) in here too. The museum itself was a bit too much and more of interest to the locals rather than the tourist, so I whipped thru that
. I finally arrived to pick up the hire car about 3pm and was provided an upgrade to a Chevrolet Impala (an Impala is an African deer-like animal considered McDonalds for lions, so I found this amusing). The GPS is a Hertz home-made one that is ABSOLUTELY USELESS. It is called 'Neverlost’ and I got lost plenty of times because it has no lane guidance and the stupid thing takes too long to catch up when you are in cities turning lots of frequent corners. Programming is a pain without a touch screen. It was raining when I eventually got out of QC and after a few wrong turns got on the highway to Montreal. The expected 2.5 hr drive was forecast by GPS to take 4 hours, but soon I realised that everyone speeds in Canada. The official highway limit is 100kmh but doing less than 120kmh seems slow. At one point I was even overtaken by a cop doing 130kmh!! Plus, everyone kindly obeys the fast lane (which is the left lane over here). However, the white lane markers on the road are mostly worn out and at some points I think I was taking up two lanes because I couldn’t tell it was a 3 lane road – crazy. Once out of the cities tho, the highways are really good and at least dual lane all the way.
I cruised into Montreal about 630pm, which timed perfectly for peak hour – great. I was only tooted once tho so I was pleased with that outcome for my first major right side driving experience
. It helps that this car has a combined wiper/indicator switch too, so I am not confused what side my indicators are on. My first stop since QC was to Mount Royal (mont-real), a lookout over the city and the place that the French settlement leader was taken to by the native Indians to observe their beautiful country. Mr Frenchman thought it would do fine and proceeded to settle this part of Canada and 400+ years later there is a sprawling concrete jungle that I am sure those native Indians never dreamed or wanted. This time of year is not the prettiest to look out over a city like this – all the trees look dead, and the streets look dull – but nonetheless, it seems like a liveable place.
With a craving for a Big Mac, I plugged into stupid GPS for the local McDonalds and got horribly lost in central CBD. I pulled over on a busy street in pure frustration and with some bizarre luck/intervention, I drove down a street that lead me to my hotel!! All without the help of a GPS or map in a foreign city! Damn I’m good. I checked in at my basic hotel and eventually got my Big Mac in the Old Town.
The next day, I was up and out with just a brief 2 hours to explore the Old Town of Montreal. It was cold and windy and not that enjoyable. Montreal was never a must-see for me and simply a stop on the way to Niagara, so I was ok to simply walk the main area and then continue on. For the first time, I booked my next night’s hotel at breakfast over my phone and got a good bargain. Both Montreal and Toronto hotels were booked the morning before each check-in.
The 6 hour road trip to Toronto was dull and full of repetitive scenery
. Flat country full of dead looking trees and lanes and lanes of speeding traffic. Luckily I bought a few CD’s to keep me occupied and stopped for fuel along the way. Unlike the USA, fuel is in litres and I paid $1.38 (Canadian dollar is about on par with Aussie). Toronto is a very sprawling city and I thought I had arrived when I saw big buildings, but it was still 50km before I approached the main CBD where I was staying. Again it was peak hour and again I had limited help from the GPS (I had been trying to download maps to my phone to replace the Hertz GPS, but struggling to download it). Another simple, but cheap hotel to wait out a few hours before I headed to the airport to pick up my friend Amy who is joining me for the Easter weekend in Niagara. This was the first time we had met up since our Houston/Las Vegas experience in August last year.
Our Toronto experience consisted of a British pub in what appears to be Toronto’s version of Times Square, a subway ride to go up the CN tower, and an awful tea & muffin at Canada’s equivalent of Starbucks (Tim Horton’s) that then became our joke of the weekend. The CN tower was pretty cool and high, but not an amazing view or at least not as attractive as it would be in Spring or Summer. But soon the big smoke was behind us in our southern road trip down to a massive waterfall...
When planning this trip, I looked into options of getting from Quebec City to Niagara Falls - the train would take 10+ hours and a flight seemed silly. So, hire car it was. Then I had thoughts that snow/ice on the roads along with driving on the right hand side of the road would be a bad combo. But following my few days in QC, I was comfortable with my decision to drive and that the roads would be ice free. Plus with the help of GPS navigation what could go wrong!?