Sunday, August 18, 2013

Ottawa -> Ville de Québec

By the time I had worken up Christina had already left which was a shame since I was leaving for Quebec city that afternoon -although I was sure I'd see her again soon. I had another philosophical breakfast with Dean before I decided to go out and enjoy the sunshine. It was so warm and again I had made the mistake of wearing skinny jeans which were slowly bonding to my skin. I headed to Dow Lake which was in full bloom for the Tulip Festival with ten tourists for every one tulip in the park.

Since it was Victoria Day the park was full of everyone enjoying the day off in the sunshine. I had what can only be described as a pleasant stroll  along the canal but it takes a while to cross onto the other side of the canal so at the next available chance, I looped to the other side. Here there was an arboretum and a wildlife park - essentially an overgrown part given back to nature and full of many, many butterflies. This side of the river was very scenic (If you arrive from Carling Avenue- turn left when you enter the park) and I settled down to write my thankyou's to Dean and Christina. 

I got back to Dean's as it was filling with more wooden butterflies and artists and packed my bag and said my thankyou's and goodbyes. Dean had given me the best introduction to the couchsurfing community that I could have asked for - it's safe to say anything afterwards would be a disappointment!

Ottawa's bus station, train station and airport are stupidly far apart from each other let alone from the centre of town. I got back into lost British tourist mode by getting off the bus to the station  several stops too soon merely because I saw other people in rucksacks... Something about being on my own again made me just ooze with unexplained ignorance. Thankfully for me buses to the train station were pretty regular. 

Train stations in Canada seem far too like airports compared to British train stations where they just chuck you on your way. Here you have to check in your hold baggage and get your passport scanned.You then go down escalators and through a concourse and are jostled onto a carriage with words flying around in French. Once on the train I was amazed by how there were only  three seats per row and each seat had heaps of legroom, a table and complimentary wifi. I sat down in my throne only to be spoken to by the conductor - who looked a lot like John Malkovitch- entirely in French and I just replied with a feeble "Oui" and followed him. Turns out I had agreed to be responsible in opening the emergency exit for the carriage. I wished my fellow passengers "bonne chance."

Ottawa's ugly eh?
After that scare I spent most of the train journey listening to my French mp3s in a desperate attempt to become fluent in French in five hours. I only seem to get scared travelling when I am not confident with their language - which is often. Even though I love learning languages the thought of actually speaking them petrifies me. However, although everything in Quebec is in French, they will let you try but you know that if you screw up really badly most of the time their English is flawless.

Arriving in Quebec City was a bit bizarre as it had the same grand décor of Europe but also some splodges of 1970's linoleum. I attempted to remember the route to the hostel but it can be notoriously hard to navigate Quebec - especially at night. Luckily - or not- for me the hostel was essentially directly uphill from the train station. I had become so accustomed to Canadian gridiron street systems so it was both nice and terrifying to be back in the kind of streets which twisted and turned to form a whole new street or disappear completely.

I got a glimpse of this grand city at night when but the buildings are all lit up and there was a permenant smell of patisseries and cigarettes filled the night air. At night this place didn't even look that touristy but I am sure that changes when the sun comes up. The different road-signs and menus scattered around entirely in French made me feel like I was in an entirely different country.

My hostel room had a group of younger teenagers- probably on their gap year- getting ready to go out but there were also two older Brazilian girls who were also travelling alone. They were so polite and would speak in English while I was there even when talking to each other about their homes back in Brazil - both politeness and a want to practice perhaps. Fernanda was one of the girls and I assumed she was my age- or maybe even younger- but she turned out to be 24! She seemed confident and the kind of girl who was great fun to be around. Lia was the other girl who was your typical Brazillian looking girl - where typical is definitely not a bad thing. She was- surprisingly- 30 years old and was a set designer and had worked on those strange Brazilian soap operas I could remember from my childhood.

Fernanda and I headed out to grab something to eat but it was 11pm at night so there wasn't much open except a fast food place catering to the drunk clientèle. However I got my first authentic poutine in Quebec which turned out to be one of the best. We headed back to the hostel where I found out the bed was just as squeaky as the cheese curds in my poutine.



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