Travelling

The Big Montreal-Florida Adventure

It’s been months and I haven’t yet written anything about my first ever trip to the North American continent. Maybe because it’s been such a long-awaited trip that I first had to digest everything before being able to talk about it. And I was also super busy with work and pre-Christmas preparations and other problems which have emerged at the start of the year. Now I’ve just gone through all the pictures again, I’ve had time to remember what I loved and what I thought weird, and I’m ready to get down to it.

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So, first things first, our itinerary was as follows: London to Montreal, Montreal to Orlando, Orlando to Miami, Miami to Orlando, Orlando to London. Flying from London to Montreal was actually my longest flight ever (so around 6ish hours). Obviously, the way back from Orlando was an extra two hours, so now that’s the longest. It was the first time I got on a plane that showed movies, and I was super excited (on top of the excitement for the trip-duh).

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Flying to Canada was ok, our flight left at 8pm and we landed there around 8pm as well, so it was just like staying up really late. We got to the Bed & Breakfast (Petite Auberge Les Bons Matins) really fast and just went straight to sleep. I woke up a bit during the night, but then managed to fall asleep again until 6am. We had our first Canadian breakfast of waffles with Maple Syrup, Eggs Benedict and Bacon with Scrambled Eggs. Then we headed out into the cold.

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The B&B is right next to the Centre Bell, which is where the Hockey games happen. Dan is a huge Hockey fan and so we had tickets to go see the Montreal Habitants vs the Toronto Maple Leafs. We scoped out the area and started walking towards the centre of town. At 8.30 in the morning, nothing is happening in Montreal, especially not in the financial district. We were the only ones walking around and didn’t meet another soul until we ran into a group of Japanese tourists. The weather was obviously not on our side, and so it was very cold and wet, probably keeping people at home.

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It was the first time for me I saw skyscrapers that high (Canary Wharf and La Défense cannot compare) and I really liked this mixture of old and new (the traditional Montreal houses, the old city hall and castle vs skyscrapers and massive complexes). We walked around and looked for somewhere to have Poutine, the traditional chips with meat (chicken usually) covered in cheese curds and gravy. We ended up in this Portuguese café that was highly rated on Tripadvisor (Rotisserie Romados) and I must say, it was really good!

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After lunch, we had a look at Montreal’s famous underground city. Because of the cold, many shops have taken refuge below the surface, linking the metro with convenient shopping. You can actually walk for a while before you’d be forced to get back out because you can’t shop any further, or there’s no train to take. We went back to the hotel for a rest, then left again in the early evening to get to the Hockey match.

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It was my first time watching Hockey (a LOT of first times on this trip) and I was very excited. I’m a fan of Football (that’s European Football for ya) and ice-skating, and Dan described it as Football on skates so it was ok by me! We got free scarves supporting the Habs, and ended up having a great night! I got into it when people around us started chanting “Go Habs Go” and it made us want to go ice skating the next day.

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The next morning, we waited a bit longer before heading out but ended up being forced out when the power went in our neighbourhood. We headed to the Olympic stadium where we got a multi-ticket to go up the viewing tower, into the Biodome and to the Botanical garden and Insectarium. We had a lot of fun photographing Otters, Penguins, and black squirrels, checking out massive bugs and watching thousands of ants freely roam a tree.

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Afterwards, we went to the Atrium Le 1000 where we had a quick lunch and skated for a while in the middle of the building! Dan kept skating circles around me, but I had trouble finding a pair that fit me and didn’t hurt! At night, we had dinner at The Keg, this awesome steak restaurant. I had my first wedge salad (sooo good) and we discussed the fact that even though they technically speak a form of French in Quebec (Québécois), I did not understand most people I talked to.

Very early the next morning we took a taxi to the airport and flew to Florida! I was a bit nervous when going through customs, as American customs officials are renowned for being able to just send you back from whence you came if they don’t like the look of you. Dan stayed with me and practically distracted the guy from asking too many questions so that worked out fine in the end!

The flight was just 3 hours long, so I had time to watch a movie on my tablet and then stare outside as soon as we started seeing the coast. I imagined all of my friends and family back in Europe, just on the other side of the Ocean below me. That was a weird thought I tell you! When we landed, the first thing I saw was a massive American flag hanging on the wall! That was so obviously American that I just had to post it online straight away.

We picked up our rental car and were actually upgraded from our small car to a bigger one, so I ended up choosing a cute Jeep! I’m usually not that big into massive cars, but that one just looked nice and it was practical for us and our suitcases, without looking too mahoosive. We drove to our hotel in Orlando which was quite near the entrance for Disneyworld. I didn’t take any pictures of our room and massively regret that, but if you want to have a look it was the Delta Orlando Lake Buena Vista.

My first American meal was a Chick-Fil-A (meh, just a massive nugget in a bun) but straight after that we went to Gatorland and spent the afternoon checking out Alligators and exotic birds! The weather was gorgeous, we watched a couple of guys open a gators mouth with their hands and holding it open with their chins, and we walked through a swamp looking for snakes. For dinner, we went to Uno Pizzeria & Grill and I had my first deepdish pizza.

It was also the first time I saw tablets on each table so you could order extra food or pay without having to talk to your waiter/waitress, and where I realised that sensory overload is an actual thing in the States because there was a TV behind us constantly playing interviews and it was a struggle not to look at it! That night we tried the hot tup outside, then made a plan for our Disney adventure the next two days.

The first thing we did the next morning was to buy our tickets for Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, followed by breakfast at Panera. Dan planned to take me to loads of fast food places so that I could get a broad spectrum of American food in a week, and we had to keep a list to tick them off as we went! I got more and more excited the closer we got to Disneyworld, and kept squealing along the way. We parked and took the boat to the park entrance.

All in all, it’s obviously very similar to Disneyland Paris, and it’s even much smaller (Magic Kingdom that is, the complex in itself with all the parks is huge), but nonetheless it was awesome being there, seeing their parades and shows, trying new rides (especially Space Mountain, which is EPIC) and basking in general Disney glory, which is always good. I tried Corndogs while I was there (very good) and also had some BBQ meat, thought that was not as great as advertised. Animal Kingdom was a bit of a let-down I have to admit. Their big Dinosaur (pronounce dino-sour) ride was closed for refurbishment (it’s being turned into an Avatar ride I believe) and the other huge one where you ride through the Himalayas actually made me super dizzy so bleh.

The next day, we drove down to Miami. We decided to go the long way past Tampa and through the Everglades. Most of what we saw though were strip malls. Miles and miles of strip malls in Naples. Hell on earth. I’m not sure how the seniors in Naples do it, but whatever, as long as I don’t have to live there and see the same chains repeated every mile or so. We saw some swamps, but no gators. When we finally made it to Miami, we quickly checked in to our hotel and tried to find somewhere to eat.

We ended up driving through a mall’s parking for 20min desperately trying to find the Cheesecake Factory. Once inside, I had a look at all their different cheesecakes displayed near the entrance. They have so many! I had some chicken with mash (wich was amazing) and then I picked a Hazelnut Chocolate Cheesecake wich was out of this world. But the slice was so huge I felt bad for only eating half!

The next day, we wanted to drive past Miami beach, but with the Zika scare being at its highest we drove with the windows firmly closed and didn’t even make it near the beach because the hotels and other Trump towers are all so massive that you can’t see shit. So, unfortunately, I didn’t really get to see that landmark. However, we did get to eat the best Cubano in town at the tiniest diner, Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop.

After that, we drove to Key Biscayne, which is, according to my friends, the prettiest of all the Keys. We also drove all the way to Islamorada, but didn’t make it much further, as it was already quite late. I guess I’ll have to go back if I ever want to see Key West! It was hilarious to see people driving Golf Carts on the Keys, as if they were normal cars.

The next day, we had another look at a huge mall (a Westfield’s actually, almost like being back in London) and I got to walk through some of the shops I’ve heard so much about (Macy’s, Target, JCPenney…) and have some Panda Express! It tasted so yummy! We drove back up to Orlando and hung out for the last day at our hotel, testing the pool, finally finding some postcards (it is soooo hard to find postcards in this country!) and going food shopping so Dan could bring back some of his favourites (some of which have become my favourites).

This first trip to the US of A (pre-Trump) was so great. I loved every second of it, Disneyworld, every place I visited that I’d only heard about on TV or in a movie, seeing how truly huge everything really is, how nice and welcoming the people can be. I can’t wait to go back!

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Pictures by: me!

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