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Wrapping things up

Day 24: Winnipeg, MB. 6,660.4 km.

I guess I can't end this story in Fergus Falls, can I?

Morning started with a quite acceptable breakfast in the hotel, and then I re-packed the car in the frigid cold…it was definitely below -20°C; closer to -25, I think. But I had made a bit of a mess of things while unpacking the previous night, and the extra bags from our shopping in Albertville had clogged the rear window, so I spent a little while rearranging things and then bringing everything from the hotel room to the car.

Mmm!

The car, I should mention, was very reluctant to start. But, start it did, and off we went in the general direction of home…with a few stops on the way.

We stopped in Fargo, to visit Kohl's, Target, and JCPenney. We didn't buy anything at any of them, but the JCPenney turned out to be attached to a very nice mall that we wandered around, and ended up picking some stuff up at The Gap. Then it was a quick lunch at the food court, and out onto the I-29 north to Winnipeg.

West Acres Mall in Fargo

Unfortunately, while we were shopping, it got snowy, and there was a lot of blowing snow on the road, combined with less-than-ideal visibility. But traffic was light, and we made decent progress, with the worst problems (again) being caused by snow plows plowing the shoulder. One of them was kicking up so much snow that I couldn't see the road in front of my car, and didn't know if I was going straight, veering left (towards the snowplow), or veering right (towards the guardrail and dropoff on the side of the bridge)! I actually came to a complete stop briefly, and when the snow cleared I had two wheels over the dotted line! We passed that plow safely, as well as another one a little while later.

Then, after two quick stops (gas in Grand Forks; duty-free in Pembina), we were home! A weird feeling, after so long away, but it's nice to be back.

And that's it: over three weeks on the road, over six thousand kilometers driven, and ten different cities slept in. We've had a lot to be thankful for: we visited lots of relatives and friends, had some great experiences, and were safe and healthy the whole time. It was a great trip — the longest either of us have ever been on — and we don't know when (or if) we'll have the chance to take another one like it.

Thanks for reading along with us; I hope you enjoyed it!

 

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Winging it

Day 23: Fergus Falls, MN. 6,201.5 km.

Wait a minute…Fergus Falls? Where's that? What happened to Rogers?

Well, this morning, Ali and I decided to cancel our third night in the Holiday Inn Express in Rogers, and get a head start on our drive home. See, we were going shopping at the outlet mall in Albertville, and we figured that wouldn't take all day, so rather than drive 20 minutes in the wrong direction to get back to Rogers, we'd just keep going west and stop somewhere else.

So, we packed up, checked out of our hotel, and went shopping!

We got to Albertville right at 10:00, when the stores opened. The outlet mall was alright, but nothing outstanding. We got a good deal on shoes at the Converse store: I got two pairs and Ali got one, and a pair of shoes was the one thing I was really hoping to get. Other than that, we bought some kitchen stuff and clothes at a few different stores. To my surprise, I ended up with more clothes than Ali!

It's an American store, but they know who shops here!

Once we were done shopping, we got gas, stopped at another Caribou Coffee for dark hot chocolate (yum!) and pastries, and then started driving west. We passed St. Cloud, Sauk Center, and Alexandria, and finally pulled off the interstate at Fergus Falls. As it turns out, I chose the wrong exit, so we got a bit of a tour of town as we meandered over to the retail area of town. We stopped at a Target where Ali did some more shopping while I used Target's wifi (thanks, Target!) to look up local hotels. I'm glad I did, because the advice online was that the AmericInn was the best hotel in town, and that's where we are now!

Nice place, but I'm easily bribed by the free cookies and hot chocolate with flavour shots 🙂

Oh, one other thing…it's COLD! It was chilly and windy in Albertville, but the farther west we drove, the colder it got. It's -27°C here; even colder than Winnipeg's -25°C! I'm not looking forward to repacking the car tomorrow morning…with the shopping we did, we need to rearrange some things.

But, if all goes according to plan, tomorrow we'll be sleeping in our own bed!

 

A cold day in Montreal

Day 12: Montréal, QC. 3,359.1 km.

It was a cold, windy day in Montreal today: -14 °C, with a 40 km/h wind giving a windchill of -26. So, of course, we decided to leave the car parked and go for a walk!

Gotta dress warm!

We started the day with the breakfast buffet, which was pretty good, though maybe not quite as elaborate as I had pictured in my head. Still, nothing to complain about: we had coffee, tea, juice, toast, croissants, and fruit, which isn't a bad way to get going. And the atmosphere of the hotel is nice: the breakfast area feels more like a small bistro than the crowded noisy room you get in a lot of hotels.

Our hotel. A small little place — we like it!

We bundled up, got outside, and learned that Montreal is a giant skating rink. The roads and sidewalks are sheets of ice everywhere — walk carefully! We went to the car to get a couple things that we forgot to bring in last night (like Ali's hat), and in the blink of an eye Ali's legs shot out from under her! She managed to hit her elbow, head, and wrist on the way down. Thankfully, nothing major, but her wrist is pretty sore and swollen now. She's been putting ice on it and we hope it's not badly sprained or anything.

We started off by heading to the street we saw last night that looked like it had a bunch of shops on it. It was, unfortunately, less interesting by the light of day. Yes, it was all shops, but it was things like a drugstore, a dollar store, some inexpensive clothing stores, and so on. We walked for a few blocks, taking in the neighbourhood, and stopping into a few places to warm up, but soon decided that this probably wasn't the best way to spend our limited time here. We had a warm drink in a coffee shop (a nice place, but nothing special; kind of like a Starbucks), and headed back to our hotel to get some advice.

Exterior staircases like these are very common in the neighbourhood we're staying in.

At the hotel, we learned that the most interesting tourism areas are Old Montreal, and Mont-Royal, aka “the mountain”. We booked a bus tour for tomorrow that will take us to Mont-Royal, Olympic Stadium, and a couple other places, and then walked over to a (somewhat) nearby Metro station to catch a metro train to Old Montreal (a short six-minute ride on a crowded train).

In Old Montreal, we explored, once again popping into shops for warmth and window shopping. You can definitely tell that the area is the older part of the city: narrow streets, cobblestones, different architecture, and so on. Our first order of business, though, was lunch, and we got that at a brewpub, Les 3 Brasseurs, where we sat right next to the glass walls separating the dining area from the guy working on actually brewing the beer they serve. The food was great, though ordering was a bit of a challenge: we managed to pick one of the only restaurants, it seemed, without an English menu. We got it figured out though.

Les 3 Brasseurs

Actually, I've been surprised by the ubiquity of French here. Of course I expected to hear and see mostly French, given that this is Quebec. What I didn't expect, though, was an almost complete absence of English. I heard almost nobody speaking English today, and of the three English speakers I did notice, two of them clearly weren't locals. A few places, particularly in the more touristy areas, do have English signs (and menus), but certainly not all…and what really surprised me was the number of people we spoke to who aren't particularly fluent in English. We've been able to speak with everyone we needed to, but there were multiple occasions when the speaker was stuck for a word, or mispronounced something.

Not many of the shops we went to stand out, but there was a fantastic artists co-op, l'Empreinte Cooperative. It had all sorts of really neat artisanal creations, ranging from art (original and prints), to toys, handbags, carvings, jewelry, everything. It was all very unique, and really nice; there were tons of things that that we would have loved to take home. No photos allowed, unfortunately, so I can't show you…you'll have to trust me!

Our big tourist attraction of the day was Notre Dame cathedral — impressive! Contrary to what I've heard before, it was not based on the cathedral of the same name in Paris…though parts of its interior decoration were inspired by a different chapel in Paris. We learned this on a fairly minimal guided tour that we took, and almost missed…for some reason, it didn't meet at the appointed starting place, and we only caught it because Ali overheard the ticket-seller telling someone else where they needed to go.

Candles were available for lighting in front of various images, presumably for differing purposes.

It's a huge church: a capacity of 3,500 “comfortably seated” people in the main church, with another 350 fitting into the smaller attached chapel. A few decades ago they regularly had attendance of 7,000, but that stopped when fire code regulations said they weren't allowed to have people standing int he aisles anymore. And apparently 11,000 people attended the inauguration!

The 20-ton bronze altarpiece at the front of the small chapel.

After our visit, we walked and shopped our way back to the Metro station, and rode the (rush-hour) train back towards our hotel. On the walk balk to our hotel, we saw a small place called “Le Petit Fourneau”, which, according to the sign, was a “Patisserie and Chocolaterie”, to which we said “Yes please”! We ordered a raspberry tart, a chocolate croissant, and a couple expensive-but-VERY-chocolatey hot chocolates, which we enjoyed on the way back to the hotel.

Big red poles!

Riding the Metro

Mmm!

At the hotel, we grabbed another snack from the kitchen, and were planning to go out for dinner, but the cold weather and lack of any really attractive nearby options meant that we just stayed in the hotel and watched Despicable Me (it's always nice when the hotel wifi is good enough for Netflix!)