Next Stop: Overall Canada

Hey everyone after a very busy week post Canada, including my time in the food and wine festival in Orlando, my last Friday’s post was delayed to, today! So I recently returned from Canada, and man do I have some stories from that to tell everyone! My itinerary totally got changed there, so now I have a trip report for Air Canada and Delta, long story short, Air Canada screwed up in relaying some information of the required check-in times at the airport, combined with sudden traffic in Montreal led us to miss my flight! Then Air Canada’s horrendous customer service crew pushed me into booking a whole new set of flights with Delta to get me home, rather than rebooking with AC. I’m in a very long battle now with AC, and the DOT to get my money back from the missed flight. Apart from that, and the fact that I was denied renting the car I needed from AVIS Canada, Canada itself was beautiful, but I was thrilled by landing in FLL and being back home. I’ll give everyone a break down day by day of  my trip, here we go!:

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Day 1: FLL-YYZ

My AC flight left on time from FLL northbound to YYZ on schedule, a very, very bumpy flightIMG_1376 with nothing complimentary but a cup of ginger ale, and a make-shift smile from the young flight attendants. My seat front pocket was broken, their award winning magazines were all stained and damaged, and to top it off, their AVOD system wasn’t working for everyone, mine’s had an audio issue with any set of headphones. Over all I might of as well of been flying Spirit, who gave me the same service and lack of free checked-in bags. Not the 4 star experience they so rave about! After landing, a quick nice taxi ride took us from a very large and beautiful YYZ, (although would it kill them to have more than 1 immigration officer in a very large hall for multiple US originating flights), to downtown Toronto which was absolutely fantastic and cold. Being a Florida boy, I was freezing as temperatures were lower than our mid IMG_1403winter temperatures. The city was very alive, the whole trip we concentrated our time on the vital city arteries of King and Queen St.’s. Check-in was very fast, the hotel’s location and views were absolutely amazing. My room overlooked the city and the CN, while others face the inside of the Rogers Center, including the lobby and its bar, where we watched part of a football game from during our first night. We went for a freezing walk into downtown and loved every part of it, the city had a very lively young feel to it, a lot of people walking the streets, talking and biking. We went and grabbed our first Tim Horton’s donut, of course a Canadian maple flavor, as every good tourist and fan of the show IMG_1413How I Met Your Mother. We then hit the stores of Queen St. which were packed, and enjoyed our time strolling through the city and watching the cable cars go by the street and seeing everyone in awesome coats. As the sun dropped we began walking back to the hotel to change and get ready to go to dinner at the CN’s 360 restaurant. Upon arriving to the CN we were greeted and instructed to the check-in desk of the 360, once there we were checked-in and they offered to take our coats, however recommended we held on to them for the observation decks of the CN included in the dinner. We took a glass elevator to the top and got to the restaurant, a very beautiful view, how ever, very cramped and loud, the food was average and the price was extraordinarily high, but I’ll review that later on. Post dinner we were very tired and went back to the hotel and hit the hay.

Day 2: Niagara/ vineyards/ city.

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Day two we woke up and headed to the AVIS agency we had our IMG_1516reservation with, only to arrive and be denied a car, simply because my sister did not have a credit card to rent the vehicle, and it had to be under her name. Although I called AVIS multiple times from home to confirm I was allowed to rent with her name and my card, we were denied. Now we were without a car to get to Montreal/Ottawa and Niagara, luckily for us this guy always has a plan B. We headed to the room and booked us some 6am tickets the following day on VIA rail to Montreal, and called up the secondary car rental company I had backed up to come pick us up and get a car. After a few charged local calls, the guys from Advantage Car and Truck rentals (I cannot recommend these guys enough, they are fantastic) happily picked us up to take to their office to sign the paper work and get going, they charge a lot less than the other companies, however they only had a medium car left so the price was a bit higher, but it was a brand new fusion with insurance and with GPS it came out to only IMG_1454around $100 for the day. Our trusty GPS took us to Niagara through some amazing wine country areas around lake Ontario and of course, we picked up some Timmy’s for breakfast (Tim Horton’s) try a double double my now favorite coffee, as recommended by a good friend of mines. I of course took many photos of all the approaching USA signs along the road, because I’m a tourist and I’ve never seen USA approaching signs! WOW is all I can say for the the falls, such outstanding beauty and power, the water falls so perfectly and with a deafening roar. After a good few hours watching the water, going behind the falls and standing right besides IMG_1597them, and get soaked in 40 degree weather, we then headed back to Toronto. On the drive back we saw so many signs for vineyards and decided to stop at one, what a beautiful area, the guy explained to us how due to the lake and the fact they are actually further south than SFO geographically allows them to grow the proper grapes for good wine. We headed back to Toronto, dropped the car off and went to to see the St. Lawrence market which was amazing, then walked the old town and headed to the Eaton Center for some shopping. Once done we headed IMG_1401out to see the Younge and Dundas square (Toronto’s times square) and then walked to Bloor street for some stores and some great Indian food and took a taxi back to the hotel. We refreshed and again headed back out to Queen st. and walked more of downtown, out of no where we stumbled into fashion week and the performance center, just like that our time in Toronto was done. Toronto reminded me of a perfect mix of Chicago and New York, however! I recommend visiting both of those first before Toronto.

Day 3: Train and Montreal.

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After a good 6am run to central station and being second to last to board our train, we departed the station for a 6.5 hour ride to Montreal via Ottawa, but did not stop there. The ride was nothing special, no amazing scenery like riding in France and the food on board was ok. when we arrived in Montreal it was raining and even colder, oh joy! We took a short cab ride to the hotel, checked-in and headed out, the hotel was great, clean and centrally located. We walked a block to Rue St. Catherine, the central artery of the city, and ate a local chain of German and French food restaurants, we had a flatbread and some poutine, they were absolutely fantastic. We walked the rest of St. Catherine’s and grabbed dinner at McDonald’s, nothing other than poutine, which is sold everywhere! Then headed to the movies like locals to watch Gravity. Walked back to the hotel and went to bed for a long day tomorrow.

Day 4: Old town/ olympic stadium/ Mont Royal.

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We woke up early this day and grabbed the subway to Old Town, we walked down to Chez Sussane as recommended by the front desk, I can’t thank them enough, it was the best IMG_1712IMG_1727thing on the trip. I had a fresh green apple and brie cheese crepe topped with dark amber Quebec syrup (#4 I believe on their syrup scale). Amazing! Once full we headed out to walk all of old town, mostly Rue St. Paul’s and the streets around it, I felt like I was back in the little French village I visited last year. With the cobblestone streets and ancient buildings and massive churches, it was something so different from the rest of North America. We visited city hall and walked the sea side, taking in surprise views of the old world’s fair grounds from across the straight, including the ecosphere and the habitat 53 houses. After an amazing morning we headed to the small but very nice China town and IMG_1968grabbed a great reasonably priced lunch and headed back out. We took the subway to the old Olympic complex and what a sad, yet fantastic place. Such a massive historical stadium and park that is such an icon to the city, has fallen into such disrepair and damage. As an architecture student and huge Olympic enthusiast it was very sad to see, having seen other complexes around the world (London 2012, Atlanta 1996, Athens 2004, IMG_1803Barcelona 1992, proposed Istanbul 2020) seeing the Montreal complex like that was a shame, however it is still a sight to see. From there we headed back to the central area to climb Mont Royal. The climb up is absolutely worth it, it is so gorgeous and the leaves falling combined with the view was all just breath taking, and taking time to walk the hill itself is great. While it may not look like there are many people in the park while climbing, it is full of life at the top. After that we took the subway from the base, to the center of the arts where we stumbled into the Quebec academy awards red carpet, which was very cool, stopped at Reuben’s for fantastic sandwiches, then headed back to the hotel as we were exhausted, to repack our bags for tomorrow.

Day 5: YUL-FLL

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Soon after waking up we headed to a local bakery for a quick breakfast and then headed into the ‘underground’ mall and walkway’s stretching through all of downtown Montreal which were very interesting, a lot of good stores and shops to get a lot of cool things. After shopping in the city some more and seeing the underground, we headed above ground to pick our bags up from the hotel. We grabbed a quick slice of very delicious pizza from a window a block down from our hotel, where the locals go, I could tell with the relatively cheap prices. We then grabbed a cab to YUL where we got stuck into traffic, and took us much longer than IMG_1983expected, how ever we arrived at YUL at 3:09pm our flight was at 4:05pm, we had to be an hour before our flight to check-in due to the border pre-clearance, we were 4 minutes late and denied boarding and after a lot of fighting AC denied us boarding and treated us very badly. We ended up booking a new flight with Delta for $200/each via ATL to get us home that night, while AC was charging us $200/each as a rebooking fee, plus any fare differences which brought the ticket up to around $300 to depart the following day. The Delta flight was absolutely amazing, better than any other flight I can say I’ve taken, I was treated so well on DL that I had to personally write to each attendant and person that helped us. And then at around 11:30pm I was home safe and sound thanks to Delta and their crew!

Thanks for reading everyone! Soon I’ll write my trip report for both airlines, and restaurant review and more on the food and wine festival! Take care everyone!

Cheers,

-Ian

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