05 Apr

O Canada, Our Home and Native Land

We modified the tail end of our road trip and decided to spend more time in the country of our birth. It was two weeks packed full of love before reaching our final destination in Nova Scotia. A memorial for a cousin who left us too soon. Reconnection with family and quality time with old friends. After being on the road for a year, the visits filled our hearts and reminded us how much we cherish our relationships. There were also plenty of cute kiddies to enjoy without taking them home! Bruno has not been child-proofed.

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We crossed the Canadian border at Niagara Falls with Bruno shivering in his boots. A trek across Eastern Canada was in the cards. Over 5 years have gone by since we’d been back around these parts. Some places, like Collingwood, Ontario were new to us (Toronto’s #1 ski destination).

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The memorial for my cousin brought the family together from across the country. She was loving and warm and seemed to always be smiling… definitely too young to have her future pulled out from under her. We stayed with family in the Toronto area and got our first hint of the Canadian winters we used to know.

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Driving 2 hours north of Toronto takes you to lake country. Specifically, the town of Collingwood, which is home to Blue Mountain Ski Resort. We were promised a quiet night in with friends who claim not to indulge heavily any longer. This of course, turned into a rager of a night with an incredible Greek restaurant on the mountain, a ping-pong bar that played curling matches on their big-screen TV’s, and one final stop at a local town bar where everyone knows your name.

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Our next stop was a 5-hour drive east to Ottawa, Ontario – the nation’s capital. Also a great place to live and raise a family. We stayed 4 nights with University friends, who took time out of their precious weekends to show us around town in the frigid temperatures. Such is life in the Great White North.

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East Block of the Parliament Buildings in the background.

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In less than 2 hours, we reached the West Island of Montreal, Quebec where I grew up. We stayed with family and took walks through the old ‘hood (a cushy suburb). We enjoyed quiet dinners at home, catching up with my little cousins who’ve grown into young men. We met friends for coffee, for breakfast, and for crêpes. It was so nice to stroll the familiar city.

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Montreal, Quebec (Yvan from Renens)

30 minutes off the Island of Montreal, we made our way out to the sleepy town of Chambly, Quebec to visit more of my family. A quick stop into a local store reminded us that very little English is spoken off-island. We would have to switch the language track in our brains from Spanish to French. It consisted of a lot of smiling Oui‘s and Merci and then we left, groceries in hand.

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Travis has a grandfather that lives in Harvey, New Brunswick, just outside Fredericton and 8 hours from Montreal. The snow kept us indoors sponging up Grandad stories, although we did take a quick stroll through the numerous family artifacts in the barn on the property.

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Home sweet home in Pictou, Nova Scotia. Travis grew up in this beautiful log cabin that his parents built and live in today. We enjoyed home cooking and the musical family did not disappoint; guitars and even a snare drum made an appearance when the extended family got together.

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Down the street at Travis’ grandparents farmhouse, we were able to get up under Bruno for the first time in a while. Three generations shown here: Dad, Travis, & Bruno!

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We spent a week in Nova Scotia’s capital city of Halifax. Generous friends of ours were out of town and offered up their downtown apartment. We caught up with some of Travis’ heavily-bearded high school friends (in full Canadian winter mode), we shared a few beers and hosted meals in our apartment.

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Halifax, Nova Scotia with Queen Mary 2 (Westin Nova Scotian)

I sat by our second floor window in the mid-afternoon on a Tuesday. I had a mug of tea and Travis asleep in my lap under a quilt. It was pure bliss. This is just one of many types of days I imagined for myself in our post-working life.

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  • Freedom35

    Wonderful pictures. Also Canadian expats here.. I say I miss the seasons, but I’m not sure if I miss the snow and cold after seeing your pictures 🙂

    • Amanda

      Agreed! After being away for so long, I had definitely romanticized winter. I can handle the reality of it for about a month or two, tops! Do you get back up there often?

      • Freedom35

        We do get up there on and off. We used to live on the East Coast and it was an easy (ish) drive. I was curious about your recent quest to find a retirement town in the South East. We love the West Coast weather and scenery, but the draw of being closer to family (and the cost) might eventually pull us that way as well.

  • Linda

    I’m sorry for the loss of your cousin. It’s always horrible when people are taken from us too soon.

    What a beautiful cabin in the woods. That is pretty much my ideal home, minus the snow and cold, of course.

    • Amanda

      Thanks for your kind words, Linda. I do remember the first time I saw Travis’ home. It went something like, ‘you grew up here??’ It’s incredibly peaceful and quiet.

  • Looks beautiful (in spite of the snow)! I didn’t know (or forgot) you grew up in Montreal. I loved our week in Montreal 2 years ago. Very charming big city/small city feel depending on which neighborhood you are in.

    • Amanda

      Love Montreal, even going back as a tourist! Since we’re planning to settle on the East Coast, i’d love to go up there more – especially in the summer 🙂

      • Same here. Soooo much nicer in Montreal than in North Carolina during summer. But the “je ne pas parle anglais” crap gets kind of old when you know they parle le anglais just fine. 🙂

        We stayed at an apartment airbnb with our kids and there were parks and green space EVERYWHERE. The city swimming pool directly across the street was free during the week which the kids LOVED (even though it was a challenge to swim in 65 degree weather in the middle of July).

  • Great photos. I spent a stint living in the midwest and don’t miss dealing with the snow at all, but it is pretty! Exploring eastern Canada is on my travel to-do list. I’ve been to Halifax but never elsewhere. Would love to see Montreal, especially!

    • Amanda

      Your road trip looks plenty packed for the time being! lol once you’ve conquered the US and Europe, you can move on to Canadian sights 🙂 Happy travels!

  • Hannah Ray

    Hey Amanda, I’m sorry to hear about your cousin… sounds like it was good to spend time with family. It looks beautiful but cold in all your pictures. I’d like to visit Montreal sometime! …Minneapolis was brown and cold up until just this past weekend – then all of a sudden everything turned green and flowered – now there are tulips in our yard! Taylor built some raised beds and my sister and I shoveled dirt into them yesterday so we could get our veggie garden going ASAP. How weird is it to live in a place with seasons??

    • Amanda

      Thanks Hannah. You guys are a short 3-day drive to Montreal! lol Go for the free Jazz Fest one of these summers 🙂 Hope you have a great Spring! It sounds like you’ll be busy enjoying your yard. I can’t wait to do the same. xox Hi to Taylor and your sister!