The Gap Year: August and September adventure – Canada and New York

This is an adventure that will take more than one post to write about, plus time for me to mentally process all that we saw and did.  It straddled August and into September.  So this post is no more than a brief introduction.

It was a long-postponed trip, primarily to visit very close friends whose wedding we should have attended back in 2011.  They live in Quebec, and the plan was to spend some time there including being at their wedding, some time for a side trip on borrowed cycles, and then a trip on to New York.

It was all booked and we were ready to go, but sadly a few weeks beforehand Malcolm’s mother suffered a devastating stroke and we felt unable to leave her.  So we cancelled, and promised ourselves (and them) that we would make it one day.

And so we did, almost exactly 5 years late, but we got there.  And oh what a time we had!

We flew to Montreal and were met at the airport by torrential rain and our friend in his car.  We are not by any means seasoned long-distance travellers, so it was all very unfamiliar and exciting.  Malcolm had visited them in Canada once before, but that had been in difficult circumstances.  This was different – a holiday for us, a glimpse into their very different lives, a chance to spend longer with them than we have been able to do for years, and a chance to see something of their country.

We stayed with them for 9 days, while they were working (but he managed to take a lot of time off to show us around).  They are both medical professionals with busy and responsible jobs, and busy and active lives outside work.

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Knitting spot with a view: right by the St Lawrence River

We had some fascinating discussions about some of the differences between medical and social supports there and in the UK; and also about politics here and there. (He is from the UK, she is Quebecoise).   We met her parents and their friends, and spent an evening conversing in Canadian French, which I found fascinating.

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So many pretty verandas

We travelled to a mountain skiing resort to support him as he did (another) Ironman Triathlon.  We went to a remote lake where they have just bought a plot of land where one day they will build a wooden cabin.  We visited glorious waterfalls and parks.  We cycled to the city and back.  We had the most wonderful time.

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Summer street installation, Montreal

And then we caught a train from Montreal to New York – a story of its own, of truly stunning scenery and lessons in how not to run a railway (and how not to ‘welcome’ people to your country).

And then 10 days in New York, staying in an apartment in Brooklyn.  First time for both of us, and what a delight.  I am almost lost for words, all that will come is a string of superlatives.  We are captivated by the place, and especially by the people, and the vibrancy of everything.

If I had to choose a favourite it would be the city’s parks, but then I couldn’t nominate the great food or the stylish people.  Or the stunning sunsets we’ve seen.  Or views across from Brooklyn where we’ve stayed to Lower Manhattan.  Too too hard to choose then.

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Subway mosaic tiling

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Detail of subway tiling (Borough Hall station, Brooklyn)

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Ample Hills ice cream, with a surprising side serving of poetry (wait and see…)

It is indeed ‘the city that never sleeps’, and I am newly in love.  (Can you fall in love with a place and a people?  it seems you can).


About deborah @ the magic jug

Now I've passed 60 I'm still doing all sorts of things I haven't done before, as well as carrying on with the things I already love. I live a happy life with my long term love Malcolm. In my blog I explore local and low tech ideas, food, growing, making, reading, thinking, walking, and lots of other words ending in 'ing'.
This entry was posted in Community, Cycling, Gap year, Inspirations, Reflections on life (and death), Retirement, Seeing differently, Travels, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to The Gap Year: August and September adventure – Canada and New York

  1. wendoxford says:

    Hope you “did” Coney Island?…and the East Village foodie tour?


    • No, missed out on Coney Island this time, but it will be on the list for next time around. We managed to get through the whole week basically on bagels – which weirdly were more like beigels than I can normally find in the UK (outside Brick Lane I mean). And we did go to Katz’s deli, where we had wonderful pastrami on rye and brisket on rye. But my matzo balls are way better than theirs, and my soup too.


  2. Sam says:

    I’m so glad you had a wonderful time. Sorry I didn’t get round to telling you more about our time in NYC but I think it’s a place to discover yourself in a way. There is SO much to see and do and experience. I, too, absolutely loved the city and hope to return one day and spend more time there. It was my children’s favourite city out of those we visited. My eldest completely adored it. I look forward to reading more about your trip.


  3. Sounds like a fab holiday. Quebec is on the list of places to visit and NYC is a long-time favourite of mine (though I’ve yet to visit Brooklyn). Looking forward to reading more about your adventures.


  4. Sounds like an amazing holiday 😀Am impressed you got the train all the way from Montreal to New York- how long did it take? Are you going to watch loads of Woody Allen films now you’ve fallen in love with New York?


    • The train was great and awful – fantastic views and scenery, but massively delayed for no good reasons, so took about 13 hours instead of the scheduled 10 or so. I’d do it again, but the other way around (will explain more in a post).
      But NY was fab, and yes, we’re geared up for an autumn of films and old cop shows (Cagney and Lacey; Hill Street Blues…) – it all felt so familiar at the same time as so different.


  5. Karen Keenan says:

    Very much enjoyed this post, Deborah, having friends in Montreal myself – had a terrific family holiday there a few years ago.

    I had a great time in London recently, as we previously discussed – I would love to email to update you on the walks I did – my email is – please send me a message if you would be happy to hear from me? Not offended if not but would like to share a few thoughts on the Green Chain and a couple of other good walks I did.

    All best, Karen


  6. I bet you would like another trip to Montreal on your own so you could do more of the things you like to do. Walking the riverbank park in Lachine and exploring the green space along the St Lawrence in Vieux Montreal are both lovely. Cap St. Jacques and Ile Bizard both have beaches and hiking trails. Next time! It sounds like you had an unpleasant border crossing. I have only been to NYC once and didn’t get to Brooklyn but it is at the top of my list for next time.


    • It definitely didn’t have our best shot – Malcolm was ill with a bad head cold, which limited how far from the hotel we could stray so I’m sure we missed the best bits. There will definitely be other times, these are good friends of ours who we’ll want to visit again. Next time we have an invitation to visit in Sept Iles as well, which sounds very different again.
      The border crossing was, well let’s just say unnecessarily aggressive and unwelcoming. If I did that trip again I’d want to do it the other way round and cross into Canada not the USA.


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