After hanging out in the U.P. for longer than expected, we thought that our trip into Canada would be a quick dash across Ontario with perhaps a brief stopover in Montreal. Buy some maple syrup, let Carson dust off his French, check out the most European city in North America, and then head on to Boston for some early American history.
We crossed the bridge over the Soo locks into Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario as another giant freighter was heading off toward Lake Superior, made a quick stop at the customs checkpoint, then turned east on 17, the Trans-Canadian Highway. It was a beautiful drive – some fall colors lingering in the boreal forest, lots of boulder strewn shorelines and hills, and numerous signs warning drivers to be careful of moose and deer on the road at night. We stopped early evening in the town of Sudbury, checked the tourist information we’d picked up at the border, and headed for the Lake Laurentian Conservation Area for a hike before dark. En route, we passed a large complex called Science North. Hmmm… Back at the bus a quick Google search had us intrigued – science museum, planetarium, and IMAX? Here?
We decided to check it out the next day, assuming that we would spend a few hours before hitting the road again. Wrong! It was spectacular! We got to pet a beaver named Drifter and a porcupine (porc-épic in French) named Quillan, helped feed the skunk named Rosie (ha!), and generally had the run of the place. We did experiments on the effects of weightlessness with a micro-zero-gravity apparatus, built and raced electronic cars, polished rocks in the lapidary lab, and watched a 4D movie about Canadian firefighters. Everyone there was helpful, friendly, and extremely knowledgeable about their particular fields (we met lots of -ologists!). We couldn’t believe it when they kicked us out at closing time! “Wait, we didn’t see everything!”
So, we stayed another night, hit the museum a second time, and still didn’t see it all. This wasn’t a huge place, either, just really well laid out, well executed, and extremely engaging. Kicked out at closing time for a second straight day and we were on the road again.
We spent Sunday exploring Old Montreal, the waterfront quays, and the downtown area of Quebec’s capital city. It was odd to be just an hour from Vermont but feeling like we were back in Europe. We had been noticing the bilingual signs all across Ontario, French and English on everything, but as soon as we crossed the province border into Quebec, it was only French. We ate poutine (the local French fries, gravy, and cheese dish that’s a full week’s supply of calories and salt), saw an excellent exhibition by First Nation artists, and just walked the city and soaked up the cool atmosphere. Our last stop was the Montreal Botanical Garden to see the annual Gardens of Light exhibit, a beautiful way to end our day.
Au revoir, Québec! Next stop – Boston!