I was lucky to have planned two road trips for March; the first across part of the East Coast of the US with some friends during Spring Break, the second from Saint-Georges across as far as Niagara Falls with my parents. Here are my highlights and (mostly food-based) recommendations from the trips!
- Portland, Maine
Our first stop on the road trip was Portland. Before you raise your geographically-confused eyebrows, I feel the need to specify that I mean the one in Maine, not Oregon! It’s about a 4 hour drive from Saint-Georges and we stayed in the nearby town of Westbrook as we’d found a fabulous Airbnb there. We enjoyed lobster rolls at Rosie’s (when in Maine!) and had amazing pizza at Otto.
2. Cape Elizabeth and Old Orchard Beach, Maine
The next day we enjoyed driving around the beautiful Cape Elizabeth and trying to not get blown off the edge of the cliff during a particularly blustery walk along to some of the oldest lighthouses in Maine. We’d also heard promising things about one of Maine’s most famous beaches, so decided to factor Old Orchard into our trip. As the weather wasn’t quite adhering to the “spring” guidelines by that point, we had pretty much the whole thing to ourselves. It was mostly just really lovely spending time with 5 of my best friends and exploring new places.
3. New York, New York
Nothing, not even our New York themed playlist (featuring Frank Sinatra, Elbow, Alicia Keys, Paloma Faith, Sting and many more…) could prepare me for the breathtaking moment as we drove over a bridge into Brooklyn and were presented with the New York skyline in all the glorious colours of a perfect sunset. Our excited chatter fell silent and I slacked on my navigational duties so as to take it all in; we were driving straight towards this iconic image I’d only ever seen on TV or in films. I’ll never forget that moment, and it set the stage for a dizzyingly exciting few days in the Big Apple, hosted in Brooklyn by an extremely cool couple from Puerto Rico. We met friends for amazing Vietnamese food at the Saigon Shack in Greenwich Village, stood on the steps of Times Square surrounded by lights, ambled over the Brooklyn Bridge, saw the Friends building and Carrie Bradshaw’s front door, rediscovered a treasure trove of British confectionery at Myers of Keswick in the West Village, strolled along the beautiful High Line, were moved by the 9/11 museum and memorial, took shelter from the snowstorm at Andrew’s Diner, the Public Library and Grand Central Station, soared to the Top of the Rock, wandered through Central Park and Strawberry Fields, and I enjoyed many a circular carb in the form of bagels from Pick-a-Bagel and the legendary cronut from Dominique Ansel’s bakery in Soho. The trip of a lifetime!
As sad as we were to bid farewell to the Empire State, it wasn’t long before our excitement for New England and being reunited with the other two members of our group sank in and we had an enjoyable 5 hour drive from Brooklyn to Boston. We were staying in a beautiful Airbnb in Back Bay, and spent our friend’s 21st birthday walking the historic Freedom Trail, chowing down on some clam “chowda!” at Quincy Market, and having a legal beverage or two. Another highlight of the trip for me was spending the following afternoon at the JFK library and museum with my best friend, as it was just in a really nice part of the city and we saw the sun set over the Boston skyline as we left.
The week had gone far too quickly, and we were sad to find ourselves deciding where to spend the final morning of our American adventure. We opted for a wander around the prestigious Harvard campus before parting ways with our road trip companions and having a peaceful drive back to Saint-Georges as we reflected on what a fabulous week we’d been lucky to have.
Enter Mum and Dad, slightly jet-lagged and sleepy after a 7-hour delay but just about coherent enough to take in the tourist highlights of Québec City and Saint-Georges. I was lucky to be working in a small enough school that it was easy to rearrange my hours for special occasions, so I took advantage of the long Easter weekend to plan a few days off so that we could enjoy a week-long Canadian road trip together at the end of March. I was excited to show them Montreal, one of my favourite cities in the world, and it did not disappoint. We were spellbound by the Aura light show at the basilica, sampled Cantonese cuisine in Chinatown, enjoyed smooth jazz at Upstairs, had blueberry Fairmount bagels with strawberry Philadelphia for breakfast (trust me, it’s a thing and it works), took in the classic view from Mont Royal, decided that the queue for Schwartz’ smoked meat sandwich deli was definitely worth the wait and marvelled at the ceiling over coffee in Crew Collective.
We took the wonderfully smooth hire car (I loved my 14 year old banger to pieces but he didn’t half make a racket) from Montreal to Mont-Tremblant, a popular ski resort 2 hours north of the city. Whilst we weren’t quite geared up for skiing, it was a pretty mountain town in which we could wander around and spend the best part of an hour trying to relocate my dad among similarly dressed “outdoorsy” Canadian men…
We then took a beautiful country road and an exciting ferry from Quebec into Ontario as we arrived in Ottawa. We had a delicious dinner at Aroma Meze, where they brought just enough small plates to leave us wanting more but not in a dissatisfied kind of way. As luck would have it, one of my best friends from the programme was also visiting Ottawa at the same time, so we met up with him the next day for the parliament tour, some Canada biscuits and a hilarious evening at the Loft board game lounge. I’ve never been to a capital city that is so sleepy in comparison to its metropolitan companions, but Ottawa has a lot of hidden gems and I would definitely recommend a visit.
Perhaps it is because my heart is in Quebec, or perhaps it is because both of my visits to this city have been at particularly quiet times of the year (Easter and New Years), but I remain somewhat whelmed by Toronto in comparison to Montreal. This being said, we stayed in a stunning high-rise apartment with gorgeous views of Lake Ontario, and I really enjoyed taking the ferry to the islands for a sunset view of the skyline on our first evening in this huge city. We also experienced a strange but enjoyable Hungarian/Thai fusion at the rather aptly named Hungary Thai in Kensington Market and, after a confusing exchange with a ticket officer where I learned that a “tram” is a “streetcar” in North America, we headed to Graffiti Alley to admire the artwork.
9. Niagara Falls
I consider myself very lucky to have seen this natural wonder twice in one year, and it was interesting to compare it to my glacial memories of the waterfall from December. Another difference was that this time I had my dad and his tripod in tow, meaning he could show me how to make full and impressive use of my 10-stop neutral density filter and I could take probably the fanciest photo I will ever take: