Bienvenue à Montréal!
Day 12: Montréal, QC. 3,359.1 km.
We made it!
Actually, the drive was (thankfully) an anticlimax. After what looked like significant snow and sleet last night, an icy driveway this morning, rumours of lane closures and heavy traffic, and a general suspicion that things were worse farther east, we briefly wondered if it was even worth leaving Hamilton today. But we decided to give it a shot.
We had an unhurried morning: no alarm, relaxed packing, and “breakfast” at Starbucks, finally leaving Hamilton at almost noon. That was partly deliberate, since we wanted to be late enough to miss morning rush hour in Toronto, and we were also waiting to see if we heard news of bad roads or road closures. However, after all that buildup, it was a complete anticlimax: the main roads were clear of snow and ice, we had only occasional light snowfall throughout the day, and as we got farther east, the roads were bone dry.
The drive through eastern Ontario was quite pretty, reminding us partly of the highway to Kenora and partly of the B.C. interior. It was an easy route: get on the 401 just outside Hamilton, and continue east until you hit Montréal. The stretch of road between Toronto and Trenton Air Force Base is designated the Highway of Heroes, with poppies on the signs along the way to remind you.
At 5:30 on the nose, we crossed the border into Québec, and after an hour or so of navigating by Français signs, we pulled up to our hotel. (I caught the gist of most of them, and then there was one that said something about our highway, but I had no idea what. I just looked at Ali and said, “I hope that wasn't important.”)
At the hotel, we had by far the worst bit road on the entire trip: the parking lot. We managed to claim one of the three first-come first-serve free parking spots at the hotel, which was a smooth sheet of ice…on an incline. I made it into the spot on the fifth or sixth attempt, we carefully walked/slid to the back lane and sidewalk, and we checked in.
Which was when we learned that our room is on the third floor, and there's no elevator. So we hauled all our luggage up the forty-two steep steps (yes, I counted), and grabbed a complimentery snack from the kitchen (tea, cookies, crackers, cheese, apples). The all-day kitchen assortment in this hotel rivals some continental breakfasts that I've seen, so I'm looking forward to the breakfast buffet in the morning!
And I think that'll be it for today. It's 8:00 as I write this, and I think we'll have baths/showers and just relax. It looks like there are a lot of little shops and so forth in this area (as far as I can read the French tourism guide we have, we are in the Plateau Mont-Royal district, home to artists, young professionals, cafés, bars, and small boutiques) so if the weather isn't too frigid tomorrow, we might just walk around and see what there is to see!
I'm looking forward to it — this definitely feels like a different area. Not quite a foreign country, but a slightly unfamiliar culture. Should be fun!