I recently wrote about experiencing the biggest travel comedown of my life, and the shadow cast (in a good way) by this monster trip still has not waned. It’s forever engrained in my mind; a real-life fairytale captured in time. Yes, this may seem a bit romantic and gushy, and it wasn’t picture-perfect all the time (especially when I was sleep-deprived and simultaneously greasy-faced and dehydrated from flying. #glam)… but gosh, it was so magical.
So, as promised, here is the second part of our ultra-adventures. Where did I leave off? We completed the French portion of our trip (not to be confused with the French-Canadian portion), and hopped onto the Eurostar to GET THE TRAIN to London. This concept still boggles my mind: getting a train UNDERWATER to another country?! Excuse all the caps, but honestly, it’s baffling and fantastic. The truth is, this train was one of the smoothest I’ve ever been on, and the underwater section was barely noticeable. Seriously! I kept waiting for it to come, then it was dark for maybe 10 minutes — when I thought we were in a tunnel — and that was it. Brilliant feat of engineering, that.
The train itself was super clean and super British: the menu of the in-flight(?) cafe featured very English-y sandwiches and chips, and I couldn’t have been happier. Even before boarding the train, we had to go through customs of sorts — nowhere near as strict as airports, but still novel to go through it when simply boarding a train — and even that was so British. Our security officer was a sassy older British woman, who questioned our vocations and stared us down, while giving us a wry smile from the corner of her mouth.
Another funny thing: the Eurostar station has duty free. This whole thing was so exciting for me — you’d think we were already in Britain, from how it felt. I couldn’t wait to get there.When we disembarked the train, we were in the stunning St. Pancras station, which just seemed like a dream. I was honestly like a kid in a candy store. It was so shiny, clean, British. Even overhearing conversations of passersby made me smile. I felt like I was with my people!
We had booked an overnight hotel in Euston, which I didn’t know of but soon learned was supremely located. We didn’t really get out too much (we stuck around that area) but even walking around there, you could tell there was a buzz going on. It was also a Friday night, which explained all the dudes in suits with beers in hand. Go figure!
The next day, we made our way to Northish London to meet my high school bestie, Pal-z (aka Steph). She had so graciously given up her room for our lucky selves, and packed a backpack in preparation for sleeping on her friends’ couches/spare beds for the next 5 nights. What an effing star. I was so happy to see her — again, it was just like coming home! We hadn’t seen each other for three years, but as with all good friendships, when we met, it was as if nothing had changed and no time had passed.
We spent the next few days in her area, wandering around, discovering cute little cafes (of course) and just taking our sweet time. This is a big thing for me: rushing is so not passe, don’t you know? It was a true luxury being able to amble around, eat my body weight in bacon, and have no one to answer to. The good life indeed!
During this time, Popo showed us around trendy Brick Lane, and Shoreditch, where we went to Box Park and discovered the myriad food options London has to offer. Honestly, London is potentially even more of a foodie city than Melbourne — and that’s seriously saying something. You can just get whatever you want, whenever you want, which is absolutely something I can get on board with. We also went to a cool hipster park, where some incredible singers were just riffing a capella, people were sitting around on crates smoking various things, and good times were clearly being had by all.
After our five nights were up, we bid farewell to my boo boo and switched locations, to meet up with our friends Alexey & Kat. Alexey opened up his home to us, and we happened to stay in what used to be his childhood bedroom… full circle moment!
We spent days doing some work (as we were working remotely for a few days each week), and then exploring what London had to offer. We hopped on the tube — which really is like a tube, and more than a little claustro, if I’m honest — and hopped off in the heart of London. Strolling along the beautiful Thames, seeing the London Eye (which, Kat informed us, is now officially the Coca-Cola London Eye, and far less romantic and likeable), we went to yet another food market and had an incredible bratwurst (or three). We also were able to meet up with our friend Sophie, with whom Gav and I taught in Korea, and had an epic time drinking CHOCOLATE COCKTAILS at the most bomb chocolatier I had ever laid eyes on. If the name comes to me, I’ll let y’all know, because they made the kind of chocolate that would make a grown man cry.
I remember this time with our friends involving great conversations, lots of incredible food, and ciders at the breakfast table for 4 hours, until suddenly it was midnight and we were falling asleep. Such amazing memories.
Eventually, it was time for Gav and I to keep on rollin’, so we said our teary (on my part) goodbyes and, on a rainy Tuesday morning, we headed to Gatwick to get our flight to Montreal.
Firstly, our flight over to Canada was super smooth. One of the most pleasant flying experiences I’ve had, thanks to both the efficiency of Gatwick Airport (love it!) and the lovely staff on our Transat flight. It was also great to fly during the day, instead of catching our usual red-eyes — definitely a game-changer.
Even in the taxi from the airport, I could tell I loved Montreal. It had a European feeling, but also seemed very North American; the perfect hybrid. It was also a beautiful day, which didn’t hurt. We rocked up to our friend Deric’s place, and although we didn’t have his unit number or phone number, he just so happened to turn up at the exact same time. Muy serendipitious. Deric showed us up to his place, where his gf Sammie was waiting, and we had a beautiful reunion (she’s my boo). They live in a lovely, sunny apartment in an incredibly vibrant part of Montreal — just divine.
Montreal is beautifully flat; the streets are in perfect grids and the sidewalks are comfortably wide. Coming from KL, where there is basically no sidewalk, and even if you do decide to try to walk, all bets are off as to whether you’ll make it without being drenched in sweat… this was a nice change. Honestly, I miss the walkability of European cities; seeing the world on foot is so different to just zooming past in a car.
Anyway, after a few days at their house in the city, we hot-footed it to Deric’s cottage in the woods. This was were things got cray cray: it was probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. The area was called Hawk Lake, and just to really drive the point home, I once saw a lone hawk gliding above the lake, as if guarding its territory. It was so serene, peaceful, tranquil… all my high-value keywords. It also looked like a postcard: a wide-open, deep-blue body of water, waves licking gently at the port, deep green trees as far as the eye can see. Perfection.
These days were super peaceful and relaxing: chatting and eating with Deric’s family, visiting the tiny (“quaint”) town nearby, and chilling out to the nth degree. I also may have made a resolution to one day own a cottage in the woods.
I really loved Quebec (or as I call it, “French Canada”), because it’s the perfect mix of Europe and the Western world (i.e. English-speaking). The crazy thing is that most people, especially in the city, speak two languages as a default — that’s just such a cool perk to me. There’s also a real hipster scene, and some amazing cafes which I gladly dined in and did some clicking of my computer keys in. Overall, Montreal is a very liveable city, and I would highly recommend checking it out.
I have just decided that this is enough for today — so there will be a part 3 to this post! It’s sort of emotionally taxing for me to go through the photos, because it brings up a lot of memories and makes me want to be back there… but it’s gotten easier in the past week or so. Especially knowing I’ll be able to visit again one day. There are a lot of things in flux at the moment, which is incredibly exciting, so I’m just going to focus on the fun times ahead and get hyped about what’s next.
So… stay tuned for the third (and final) installment of my mega-Eurotrip… coming soon!
Have you been to London and/or Montreal? What were your experiences? Share your travel tales in the comments (and help me to live vicariously through you haha)!