As you my know, I have written my previous blog to try and show the unconditional adoration I feel towards Montreal. Leaving this amazing city and my newfound friends behind and going home to Hungary for the Christmas holiday left me feeling gloomy and happy at the same time. Even though I know I have missed out on all the Christmas lights, decoration and sights that December brought along to Montreal, the feeling that I had gotten the most out of my trip has made me feel less downhearted. While I spent the majority of my four months in Canada studying at McGill University and enjoying the city, I would have felt incredibly guilty, had I not travelled around at least a bit. Since I was the first of my family to set foot in Canada and live somewhere not thousands of kilometres away from the USA, I felt sort of an obligation to take a break from studying once in a while and spend a couple of days knocking about. This blog is my way of trying to show the most interesting trips I have made during my stay.
-Celebrating the winter equinox on Thompson Island-
The decision for my very first trip was made in less than a minute. I was peacefully preparing dinner after an exceptionally long and tiresome Monday at the end of September when one of my flatmates suddenly burst into the kitchen and told me about this amazing opportunity to celebrate the winter equinox by visiting members of the Mohawk Indian tribe at the Akwesasne reserve. We immediately realised that this was no ordinary opportunity so it took less than a minute for almost the whole flat to decide to go on the trip. We have reserved our places the very next morning. The trip, organised by the fantastic McGill Outdoors Club, looked amazingly exciting and it was only two days long; exactly the amount of time I severely needed away from my books.
We left one of McGill’s parking lots 7 in the morning on the 21st of September and arrived a couple of hours later at Lake St Francis, where we were greeted heartily by our friendly guides. After each receiving a paddle and a life jacket, we grabbed our bags and walked to our boats. Soon after, our two canoes left the docks as we started rowing towards Thompson Island where we were going to spend our weekend.
We have arrived at our destination after two and a half hours of rowing. Following a short break, we went on a hike around the island while Bob, one of our hosts, showed us the various medicine plants found on the trail. While it was relaxing to walk around and breathe in the fresh air, the most interesting part of the trip was when we kicked-back with a cup of hot herbal tea in the evening and listened to the adventures of our host, Bob. Bob grew up in the Northern parts of Canada and spent much of his childhood and adult days hunting in the wilderness with friends and clients. Naturally, all his experiences were highly interesting to a group of city dwellers so we listened in awe as he told his tales of hunting bears, beavers and moose, or getting lost in the forest and spending a cold winter night under a pine tree. However, Bob had also been exceptionally active on a political level, embracing the issues of Indian tribes living in Canada, aiming to help in various ways. While these kind of tales may not have been the most interesting topic for the majority of the group, the politics student found them enthralling. Hours passed like minutes as we sat in a circle asking questions and telling stories of our own besides the roaring fire. However, we have all started to feel drained after a while, after all, it had been an exciting day for everyone. After catching a few hours of sleep, our morning continued in a largely similar way, listening to stories and hiking around the island or playing games and talking to Bob and his wife.
After bothering Bob with my politics related questions for a bit, our guides told us that it was time to return to the Park. Since we have seen all the beautiful parts of the lake on our way to the island, the voyage back was a lot quicker, which proved to be a good thing as a huge rainstorm have decided to see us off and pursued our canoes relentlessly. The exciting weekend and all the rowing left everyone tired, so most of the car ride back to Montreal was spent by sleeping.
In the end, my first trip in Canada was simply amazing and provoked some jealous Facebook messages from friends back in Hungary. Not only have I visited the beautiful Lac Saint-Francois and Thompson Island, but I have met new friends and listened to the tales of a man with an amazing life.
-A day at Mont-Tremblant-
The idea of my second trip came from my extraordinarily beautiful and talented roommates (just in case they happen to read this at some point). They have invited me to spend a Saturday at Mont-Tremblant hiking and taking pictures; a proposal that sounded particularly appealing as we were supposed to have glorious weather at the coming weekend. We arrived to Parc National du Mont-Tremplant approximately three hours after leaving our flat, getting lost at least two times along the way. The view that greeted us, however, was worth the trip on its own. The pictures I took have nothing on the real, picturesque scenery of of mountains, but they do give a sense of how beautiful our trip was.
Even though it was the end of Autumn, Mont-Tremblant was still dressed to impress. The beautiful fading colours, the sparkling blue sky and the orange, yellow and red leaves stubbornly clinging to the branches or quietly rustling beneath our steps immediately cleared our minds. We took a handful of minutes to just breathe and taste the fresh mountain air before beginning our hike, which turned out a bit longer than expected: around 11 hours.
As we have made our way further and further up the hill, the view just kept getting better.
When we have (finally) reached our destination, a small clearing in the woods at the top of the mountain, we have decided to take a short break before heading back to the car and grab something to eat to replenish our energy. At this point, the local residents of the clearing appeared, demanding their fair share of the food in exchange for tolerating our presence. They were particularly fond of the bag of mixed nuts we brought with ourselves.
Even though the walk back to our car took us around 5 hours, it was no less tiring compared to the first half of our trip. We took a couple of last pictures before thankfully slumping into the car seats, more than ready for some well deserved rest.
All in all, if you have the chance to go and spend a couple of hours marvelling at the beauty of the Mont-Tremblant landscape, do not hesitate to do so!
-A long weekend in the USA-
If there was one thing that I absolutely wanted to do while I was in Canada, it was going to the USA. Keeping the goal of being the first of my family to set foot in the country in front of my eyes, I have been constantly looking for opportunities to travel around a bit in the northern parts of the States. Interstude; a startup event team organising trips for international students who are only staying in Montreal temporarily; offered a wide range of trips to choose from. One of them, the “Yes We Can” trip was particularly appealing because it was at a weekend which was not immediately followed by any assignments or exams. During the four day trip, we have visited Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and Pittsburgh, spending two nights on the bus and two nights at a hotel.
Thursdays have always been the most taxing schooldays for me, days filled with conferences and lectures back to back. However, the Thursday on the 14th of November was much more exciting compared to the rest as the convoy of Interstude buses left at midnight to Philadelphia. By the time our bus started to get more lively in the morning, we had already reached the outskirts of Philly.
We started our day by roaming around the rooms of Independence Hall and marvelling at the sight of the Liberty bell, displayed only a few strides away on the other side of the street.
We spent the whole day walking around Philly and managed to visit almost everything worth seeing. We even had the time to go to the “Rocky stairs” and the statue!
Even though the whole city was breathtakingly interesting, the highlight of the day was when we went up to the tower of the City Hall. The view from the top blew away our small group, but sadly we had only eight minutes to take pictures and try to absorb as much of the view as we can, which was no small task given the immense scale of the city.
Following a long, but very much enjoyable day spent sightseeing and walking around, we grabbed some well deserved dinner at Jim’s Steakhouse, the place that serves undoubtedly the best cheesesteak there is in the whole of Philadelphia! Again, if you happen to be in the city, check it out, your tastebuds will be grateful!
After concluding our first day by drinking a couple of pints at a local pub we returned to our buses and started the next part of the trip: the journey to Washington D.C. We arrived to our hotel in Washington in the middle of the night and we were all excited to sleep in a bed for a change, even if it was only for a couple of hours. Even though the weather was a bit gloomy, Washington did not disappoint. Just like Montreal, it is a special and immense city with an atmosphere that is hard to describe, but is very pleasant and welcoming. We, of course, visited all the important sights: the White House,
all the memorials
and we even found the time to go and see an NBA game between the Washington Wizards and the Cleveland Cavaliers!
At this point, my friends in Hungary, who were following my trip on Facebook, started going mad.
The fact that we still had Pittsburgh left for Sunday was not helping either…
Even though we had less time in Pittsburgh compared to our previous stops, we still managed to walk through the Andy Warhol museum, a must see for anyone who is even a tiny bit interested in the artist and his works. The museum offered an amazing collection of his paintings, movies, short videos and other creations, presented in an interesting and engaging way.
After spending the rest of the day by walking around, eating a shamefully large amount of pizza and finding our way back to the buses, we set out for the journey back to Montreal. We reached our destination relatively on time, around 10’o clock on a Monday morning. I barely had the time to run home, grab a shower and make a huge cup of coffee to combat the effects of not being able to sleep on a bus before leaving my warm and welcoming flat for a conference I could not miss. After I was done with all my classes and other duties for that day, I went home and slept for hours and hours, trying to regenerate and get ready for the next couple of days at the uni.
Even if it was incredibly tiring and even if have learnt to feel an intense hate towards taking overnight buses, the “Yes We Can” trip was truly amazing and Interstate enabled me to fulfil one of the most important goals I set out for myself at the beginning of the exchange. If anyone who is going on an exchange to Montreal is reading this, go on trips! It is definitely worth it, even if Montreal is an amazing enough place in itself. I know the city is hard to leave behind, but don’t miss out on all the fun!