Travel Diary 2: East Canada & US

Hey everyone, Erica here! It's coming up to the two-month mark since I arrived in Montreal, and despite midterms doing their best to interrupt my fun I have managed to continue my explorations of Canada and east America. Here is part two of my travel diaries, with more to come in the not-to-distant future. I hope you enjoy this little instalment!

TORONTO (ON) - October 14th-16th 2016

  • CN Tower & 360 Restaurant
Views of Lake Ontario from the CN Tower restaurant

Once the tallest building in the world, the CN Tower in Toronto stands as a classic silhouette in the skyline of the city. A visit to the observation deck is a fantastic way to get an appreciation for the vastness of Lake Ontario (pictured) and the rest of the Toronto skyline. You can also stand on the glass floor section and allow the immense height of the tower to sink in. If you have a little more time, stomach space and cash to spare then you can enjoy a meal at the revolving restaurant one floor above the observation deck, as we did. Bookings are a good idea. It takes 72 minutes to complete one revolution, giving you plenty of time to take in the view whilst enjoying your fine food.

  • Niagara Falls
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One simply cannot visit Toronto without making the two-hour trip (via bus) to visit the world famous Niagara Falls. On the day that we visited we were spoilt with picture perfect weather (check it out!). Although the falls are not the tallest in the world, they are the largest by volume of water - 750,000 gallons every second. We chose to take the Hornblower boat ride under the falls, which was so much fun! There is no better way to appreciate the immense power of the falls than to be soaked by them whilst attempting to take an obligatory red poncho selfie. The rest of Niagara Falls is rather commercialised, with plenty of amusement type attractions and classic North American eateries on the Clifton Hill strip. For the most part I chose to avoid these, although we did take a pleasant ride in the sky wheel, which gave us the most incredible views over the falls and across into America.

  • St Lawrence Markets

Although the regular St Lawrence Markets (the world's No. 1 food market) is closed on Sundays, we went to check out the area and stumbled across the Sunday antiques and craft market that was incredibly cool and eclectic. There was a huge range of antiques, books, crafts and knick-knacks along the street next to the market building and a whole separate marquee full of stalls. After wandering around for about 40 minutes, I was about to leave empty handed when I saw the GREATEST sweater I had ever laid eyes on. It was so ugly and oversized that I simply had to buy it. This is the result...

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  • Kensington 

The hostel we stayed at was in Kensington, just a few minutes walk from the Kensington market area. I personally LOVED the Kensington area as it was strongly reminiscent of my beloved Fitzroy/Carlton home in Melbourne, complete with hipster coffee shops and even a store that had kombucha on tap (sadly closed at the time of my visit). My friend and I started our Sunday by spending a solid hour hanging out in the truly eclectic Jimmy's Coffee , whose interior decorations were enough to keep me entertained for a fair while. I also enjoyed a delish green smoothie and gluten-free carrot oatmeal breakfast cookie.

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After returning a little late to Toronto from Niagara Falls we searched for some dinner and ended up at this place... and it blew my mind! For the Aussie readers amongst you, Bareburger is like Grill'd on steroids! It is a chain of burger places on the eastern seaboard that are dedicated to organic, free-range, grass-fed and sustainable burgers. They have every kind of option you could imagine, from veggie burgers to bison and elk for the more adventurous carnivores. I was most impressed with their ethics, options and food awareness, which included having a separate fryer for their sweet potato fries to avoid any cross-contamination with battered foods, and the option for a collard greens wrap - which I took. If you are ever in New York or Toronto and craving a healthy "dirty" feed, this is the place for you. The decor was also amazing. 10/10!

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GIANT MOUNTAIN, ADIRONDACKS (NY) - 24th September 2016

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A few weekends ago I had the pleasure of hiking up Giant Mountain, the 12th highest peak in the Adirondack Mountains of New York state. This hike was my first real experience of "hiking" as opposed to simply bush walking, and my goodness it was a challenge. After the first half mile of relatively simple trails it quickly increased to a very steep and rocky climb and after almost 3 hours of hiking ended with about 20 minutes of near-vertical rock scrambling to reach the summit. But it was WELL worth it, the view was incredible. We rested at the peak and enjoyed lunch before descending (via an even steeper route), totalling about 5.5 hours hiking for the day. Despite the soreness in my legs I absolutely loved the hike and would certainly be keen to return to the Adirondacks for more adventures before the winter truly takes hold.

If you don't get a yoga photo on top of a mountain, did you even climb it?

LAKE GEORGE (NY) - October 7th-9th 2016

  • Fork Island
Teaching impromptu yoga on the dock at Fork Island

Lake George is one very large lake, at 60 miles long and up to 3 miles wide in certain parts, but as a part of an outdoors club trip a group of students from McGill joined others from across Canada and north-east America for a camping weekend on Fork Island in the lake. It was a pretty small island but was home to 70+ people for the weekend and was accessible by boat from the mainland. It also features very civilised camping spots including tent decks, outhouses and picnic tables, so one can't complain about the amenities.

  • Tongue Mountain

Located on the mainland shoreline of Lake George, near Fork Island, is Tongue Mountain, which boasts amazing views of the lake and beyond. We spent about two hours hiking around the Tongue Mountain area before rain cut our adventures short, sadly before we reached the summit.

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QUEBEC CITY (QC) - September 16th-18th 2016

  • Citadel

Nestled in the corner of the Plains of Abraham is the citadel, which served as a military base and home to the Governor General of Canada. You can either walk around the walls of the citadel or opt to take a tour inside. Definitely a must-see for those history buffs amongst you.

  • Plains of Abraham

The Plains of Abraham are the grounds upon which the Battle of Quebec took place in 1775, which lasted a mere 15 minutes and resulted in the French losing Quebec to the British and the death of the military leaders on both sides. Again, if you are into history and battles, then walking across the Plains is a must whilst in Quebec. Even if you aren't particularly fussed, the Plains make a great viewpoint from which to look over the rest of the city.

  • Chateau de Frontenac

This magnificent chateau is situated right on the waterfront of the St Lawrence river and towers over nearly every other building in the area. It is now home to a few stores, including a Starbucks, and the Fairmont Hotel in Quebec is also located within the chateau (which I imagine would make a pretty special accommodation option for those who can afford it!).

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  • Old Quebec

Old Quebec is a little rabbit warren of tiny cobbled streets and quaint shops that certainly reveals Quebec's French heritage and history. We spent the large part a day just wandering through the streets of Old Quebec and looking at what was around, which I think was a great way to explore the city.

  • Old Port Markets

As a market lover I naturally wanted to check out Quebec's market scene, although at the time that we went it was pretty much the end of the day and everything was being packed up. This market is small compared to those in Montreal, but nonetheless I managed to score a punnet of wild blueberries and check out some other cool speciality stalls.

  • Montmorency Falls

These falls are about 40 minutes north of Quebec City and can be reached simply by catching the local metro bus to the end of the line. Once there you can appreciate the beauty of the falls from the restaurant overlooking them, or take a cable car ride or zip line over the falls, or walk across and down the side via the stairs. Obviously they are no where near as significant as Niagara Falls, but certainly a natural wonder to be admired nonetheless. And if you are feeling particularly fearless you can go far enough forwards to be drowned by the spray off the falls.

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MONTREAL (QC) - September/October 2016

  • Musee de Beaux Arts

I actually visited this museum as a part of my Canadian Studies class, but loved it so much that I plan on returning at least once before I leave. Despite my amateur-level of art appreciation and knowledge I was very content to wander through the public exhibition area, which is separated by floor according to the different time periods of the art.

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  • Jean-Talon Markets

Similar to the Atwater markets, Jean-Talon is a mecca for fresh produce, speciality food stores and unique Quebecois products. On this particular visit I was amazed to discover that Brussels sprouts grow on large stalks, as pictured below (who knew?!). Of course I purchased an entire stalk for the low price of $4.

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Since arriving in Canada my patriotism and Melbournian pride have grown exponentially. So when I found out that there was a Melbourne Cafe in Montreal I simply had to check it out. Even though their menu is sadly not suited to my dietary requirements (consisting of the infamous smashed avo and an extensive jaffle menu), I did enjoy a almond milk chai and the comforting decor of Australian paraphernalia. Even though I didn't try the coffee, one would hope that it lives up to the exceptional coffee standards set by Melbourne.

Copper Branch is an Canadian vegetarian chain food outlet serving a wide variety of delicious, meat-free options, including superfood bowls, veggie burgers, wraps, smoothies and sweet treats. Definitely a great option if you are in need of some plant-based goodness for an affordable price.

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Although I generally avoid gluten free baked goods and bread, due to their high sugar and starch contents, I do make the occasional exception and Le Marquis was certainly a good exception! Not only is the bakery 100% gluten free, but they are also committed to sourcing local and organic ingredients wherever possible, giving them double ticks in my books. On my first (and so far only) visit I had a pain au chocolat, because since going gluten free I have never been able to find pastry that isn't a dry, crumbly mess. It was nothing short of amazing, buttery and flaky and as light as real pastry is! This place is a must-visit for any fellow 'glutards' visiting or living in Montreal.

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I found out about Eco Loco when they set up the stand, pictured below, at Enso Yoga studio one night. After taking a few (too many) taste testers and chatting to the owners I knew that it was the kind of store that I would love. Although small, this little health food haven has a good selection of organic food products, as well as a wide range of natural and environmentally friendly cosmetic products. Also, below the store is a super cute falafel cafe which I have been to but do not know the name.

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This little vegetarian eatery is right across from McGill University and boasts a drool-worthy, Mexican-inspired menu and incredibly generous portions (see below) for reasonable, student-friendly prices! As they are famed for their nachos, I couldn't help but order a serve and whilst I left with a significant food baby I couldn't fault the flavours and toppings on the nachos.

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  • Les Vergers Lafrance apple farm

There is a whole area about 45 minutes from Montreal that pretty much comprises entirely of apple and pumpkin farms. As a part of a university-run trip we went to Les Vergers Lafrance apple orchard, where for $10 we were given a huge bag and let loose in the orchard to pick and eat apples to our heart's content.

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That's all for now folks!

Love Erica x