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Travel Story by Carly and John Brownlie

  Three weeks in Canada

Candian Mountie, Ottawa

We did not plan to tour Canada until I was invited to give a presentation at the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) conference in 2003 in Montréal. At first, I felt it was not worth going as Canada was rather far for me to travel just for a few days. But after some consideration, it was agreed that John would come with me so that we could make the trip worthwhile, by extending the stay to 3 weeks (first week in Montréal and the remaining 2 weeks for touring around).

I had been to Canada when I was 7 but my memories of that trip are limited. I wanted to return to all the places I visited then. We knew there would not be a holiday package available that covered all the places we wanted to visit, so we decided to book everything ourselves prior to our trip.

The Expedia website ( was a useful source of information and after one night of deliberating, discussion and agreement, we finally agreed on an itinerary that allowed us to visit 4 different places. We were advised to use the Greyhound buses to travel between places, but after doing our research we found that it was either too expensive or the journey times were too long. And it would use up a lot of valuable time. On looking up the prices of trains we were in luck; the website ( for train travel in Canada offered a 30% discount for all trips if booked by the end of that week. This was the best solution since it was a lot cheaper than using the Greyhound buses and it would get us to places a lot quicker. Tickets were immediately posted to us. We also searched the internet for hotels, and the Expedia website had quite a few good offers for each of the cities we wanted to visit.

The WFD conference went well. We had the opportunity to do some sightseeing in Montréal and travelled on the City Tour buses and Underground trains. Places we visited include the Basilique Notre-Dame which is beautiful inside with decorative glass, the Oratoire St-Joseph with its many steps, and the Stade Olympique, an unusual building where the Olympics were held back in 1976. Montréal is a lively city and still has the ‘old’ town by the lake, which is a must-see for visitors. It has many superb shops and restaurants. The aesthetics are so different from the ‘new’ town, which is full of concrete office buildings. Montréal is very different at night so if you are thinking of going to Montréal, make sure you see all the sights and go out at night to see the difference in atmosphere, especially in the Old Town.

From Montréal we went by train to Toronto. We were very impressed with the cleanliness of the train and how comfortable the seats were – completely different from the trains in the UK!

The cost of our hotel was very reasonable. It was situated on the outskirts of Toronto and to get there meant taking a taxi. The hotel was beautiful though. They informed us that tram rides to the city take around 20 minutes. The tram rides were enjoyable because we could see how people lived in different parts of the city.

A day was spent exploring the city and it is an interesting place. The top tourist attractions are the CN Tower and the Skydome where baseball is played. Then there is Toronto Island, which can be reached by boat. It is a beautiful and peaceful island – the atmosphere there is very different from the city as it is more like a large park where no cars are allowed. There are plenty of activities to do on the island. It also has a nudist beach! There are great views of the city of Toronto.

We were lucky things were quiet in Toronto on our visit. It was just after the SARS scare, which meant we did not have to wait long or queue up to get in places. We really enjoyed the CN tower, which has a glass floor. It felt strange walking over it and seeing the ground 1,122 feet below! Lunch was taken in the Horizons Restaurant just above at 1,136 feet!

Two of our friends, Debra and Ian, who also went to the WFD conference in Montréal joined us in Toronto a couple of days later with a hired car. We all went to explore the Amish country on the way down to Niagara Falls. This was a thrilling experience seeing the country, the clothes Amish people wore, and the transport they used.

Niagara Falls was much smaller than expected but we still enjoyed ourselves watching all the water falling down. We went on the ‘Maid of the Mist’, the boat that took us right up to the falls. There is a tunnel behind the falls which we walked through. It was a great experience but you have to be prepared to get wet though! We stayed there until night time which was good fun. We went up a tower overlooking the falls to watch a fireworks display. This was probably the biggest and longest fireworks display we have ever seen.

Toronto is a great location with many things to see and do.

After Toronto, the train took us to Ottawa, the capital of Canada. Again the train was spotless and very punctual. The first place we visited was Parliament Hill. The building is actually a smaller imitation of the House of Commons in London. There was a Parade display, which included men dressed up like London Guards at Buckingham Palace. It did go on for quite a long time though! We saw Royal Canadian Mountain Police (Canadian Mounties) on horseback. At Parliament Hill there is also a cat sanctuary.

During our stay in Ottawa we were thrilled to see a black squirrel, which we didn’t know existed!

Next stop was Quebec City, a beautiful place to visit. The Chateau Frontenac, the hotel at the centre of Old Quebec, is one of the main tourist attractions overlooking the St Lawrence River. We explored the city and discovered many different places such as Moisan’s – the oldest grocery store in North America, the last British Army settlement, the City walls and buildings with fantastic painted murals on their walls, especially those in the Old Town. There is also a funicular railway (where a cable pulls the train up and down a steep hill) which takes you from the Old Town up to the Chateau Frontenac.

On our return to Montréal we were sad because it meant that it was nearly time to go back home to Scotland! We visited the Old Town in Montréal again for the last time, and found more things to see such as a TV news studio with glass windows which allowed us to see the production. And we found a statue of Rabbie Burns!

Nearly all of the cities that we visited had a Christmas shop. I fell in love with them and bought Christmas tree decorations from each shop to add to my collection! The difference in communication in different parts of Canada was interesting - in Montréal and Quebec City it was quite difficult, perhaps due to their first language being French, but we had no problems communicating with people in Toronto and Ottawa.

We loved our trip to Canada. If we had booked a package holiday we would not have been able to visit the places that are not mentioned in the tourist guidebooks. Also, we would not have had time to see all the sights we saw. A lot of work preparing for our holiday was necessary but it was all worthwhile once we were out there.

Date Submitted: 26 Aug 2006

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