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Mais Oui! Canada!

Mais oui! Canada!

It was time for the first of many border crossings. I decided to go in the morning so that if it would take hours I wouldn’t get across too late. But crossing the border was easy. Where are you from?; Where is your car from?; What are you going to do in Canada?; How do you know these people?; How long are you staying?; When did you arrive from Europe?; When are you leaving to Europe?; How much alcohol do you have with you?; Have a nice day. Five minutes. If only all border crossings would be as easy as this one…

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The Van made it to Canada!

The first stop was to visit Jonas.  IBM Zurich send him to IBM in Bromont, Quebec for two months. He is staying at an Airbnb with enough space to host me too (thanks!). So I could get some nice warm nights. We went for an afternoon hike up Mount Orford. We saw loads of squirrels, a huge rabbit and some vultures. The hike was a nice path going up to some 700 meters with waterfalls and great views over the whole area. This part of Canada is relatively flat with some lonely mountains and loads of lakes.

The next day Jonas gave me a tour through the IBM facilities. The research department basically has all the fancy machines that the production facility next door has too. So they can try to improve the processes here. I got to wear a clean room outfit. In the afternoon we first drove to North Hatley. One travel book described the town as the “Pearl of the Eastern Townships”, while another called it the “Cutest of the Cutest”. Obviously we had to check this out. It was a nice town at a lake with a pier. But more importantly the local restaurant served a very good lunch (and beer). After North Hatley we drove to Coaticook. Across the Coaticook Gorge is the “longest pedestrian suspension bridge of the world”. It’s actually not the longest but at 170 meters long, 50 meters above the water it is fun to walk across. We had to hurry to go for the Quebecois experience: Cabane au Sucre. Jonas’ coworkers had recommended it to him. It was something food something maple syrup something located at the maple farm. Sounded like it was worth a try. So we showed up at the only Cabane au Sucre that was open on a Thursday night. It was a huge barn, the front half was decorated for depressing wedding parties. The back half had the food part in it: long rows of plastic tables and plastic chairs filled with very loud/slightly drunk Canadians. The main course consisted of two types of potatoes, bacon, sausages, ham and beans served with a big bottle of maple syrup. You’re supposed to drown everything in it. Same recipe for the dessert: three types of cakes (one filled with maple syrup) all drowned in maple syrup. Great food, no sleeping on my stomach that night…

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Great Canadian decoration at the Cabane au Sucre

The next day I drove to Montreal. Paul offered his couch for me to sleep on (thanks!) so I had two more warm nights. He already warned me that parking in Montreal is very tricky. They have signs saying which months, day of the week or time you can or cannot park somewhere (e.g. no parking between April and December on Mondays and Fridays between noon and 1). These signs are combined every now and then with signs that say that you can only park when you have a permit. To make it even more fun the signs are in French and have arrows on them to show if the rule applies to the part before or after the sign. Small problem: the signs are perpendicular to the road so you have no clue. This resulted in me driving around for an hour ending up right in front of Paul’s house. I asked a local whether it was OK to park there. He told me he had been living there all his life and he still didn’t understand the signs. And when he saw my Dutch plates he told me not to worry. The police wouldn’t know what to do with them. So I was parked and off to explore Montreal. The weather wasn’t great so I went inside the cathedral. The church is extremely busily decorated. The organist was giving a tour to some musicians demonstrating all the cool stuff he could do with the ginormous organ (lowest tones, highest tones). When I got out again it got sunny so I explored the rest of the old city. In the evening Paul invited me to his water polo practise: half an hour of swimming followed by 1 hour of playing short games. Good fun to stay a bit in shape (I’m not in shape anymore, I could only do one sprint at a time). So the last 20 minutes I offered to play goalie and collected a goalie kick out (hadn’t had any of those yet…), but after the game the they complemented me on being very clean on center back (funny, that’s where I normally get my kick outs). After practise a large part of the team went for pizza and beers and of course we joined.

On Saturday I took one of the local bike sharing bikes and after some small troubles (gears didn’t work, which is annoying with all the hills), I went for breakfast at the Jean Talon Market, a large covered market hall. I then biked to the Olympic park to have a look at the cool buildings there. After this, I quickly had to go back to Paul’s place. One of his team mates works at the TV/radio broadcasting antennas on top of Mont Real. When I told him I was an engineer doing the electronics at my last job, he invited us over to come have a look inside. Loads of really cool really big electronics. Coax cables with 20 cm diameter; ridiculously big power switches with huge handles to switch the power on and off. After the tour it was time for a beer on Paul’s balcony with a view over the park filled with people. Jonas also came by and we went for a drink at a hidden (small unmarked door) Japanese whisky bar (they also had some great sake). For dinner we decided to stay with the theme and went for ramen noodles.

Now I’m on my way to Ottawa. Back on the road by myself, back to cold nights in the van. I’m ending with a big thanks to Jonas and Paul for letting me stay at their places, showing me around and keeping me entertained!

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Since they speak French in Quebec (Baguette! Fromage!). Time for a French song from a Canadian artist (not from Quebec)

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