Foodie adventures on our Canadian Road Trip – Ontario and Quebec

November 30, 2016 by  
Filed under Canada, Eating and drinking, featured, Leisure

Our road trip this summer took us through Canada from Toronto to Montreal, eating the freshest of Canadian produce and trying the many craft beers (once the RV was safely parked of course!). We tasted our way through gourmet burgers and poutine, cooked up a storm over the camp fire and enjoyed an occasional sophisticated dinner at in some of Quebec’s finest restaurants, all washed down by the wonderfully varied, locally brewed craft beer.

Food adventures on our Canada Road Trip

Our first taste of Canada was in Toronto where we spent a day exploring the harbour front before picking up our RV from Cruise Canada. Right on the waterfront, the Amsterdam Brewhouse caught our eye, with a double height restaurant space and seating on the deck outside. We bagged a table by the lake-front and ordered a pulled pork bun with sweet potato fries and a flight of their craft beers – with names like Bigwheel Amber Ale and Downtown Brown.

The only one that was a bit odd was the ‘Adventure’ brew – small batches of something a experimental and ours was an orange flavour beer, which tasted… well… like orange juice. The menus here change seasonally but are based around casual burgers, smoked meats and a good selection of hearty salads too – plus the beer is all brewed by the company with natural ingredients and no preservatives. In cosmopolitan Tornoto this felt as close as you’ll get to typical Canadian cuisine and it was a tasty start to our trip. Amsterdam Brewhouse, 245 Queens Quay West, Toronto

Craft Beer at Amsterdam Brewhouse

Craft Beer at Amsterdam Brewhouse

A Road-side stop in Ontario at Weber’s

Picking up our RV from Cruise Canada in Toronto, we drove north towards Algonquin Provincial Park where we would be spending a couple of nights, stopping for a late lunch at Weber’s on Highway 11 near Orillia. It’s a fabulous roadside diner which is the top place to stop if you’re heading north for a camping trip. After parking the RV we joined the fast moving line in the small takeaway area – where burgers and hot-dogs were sizzling over charcoal and the orders with fries, extra cheese, milk shakes or iced tea were being efficiently assembled.

Taking our paper wrapped burgers and cartons of fries we found a shady spot at a picnic table on the grass to enjoy our lunch – there’s also a vintage railway carriage that has been converted into a restaurant car for those who like their air conditioning. If you need something sweet for desert, pop next door to buy an ice cream or frozen yoghurt – we had a tub of berry flavour.

Weber's in Ontario driving north from Toronto Photo:

Weber’s in Ontario driving north from Toronto

Farm shop flavours

Although we’d stocked up at the supermarket at the beginning of our road trip, we quickly realised that the more interesting foodie discoveries were to be found at local farm shops and markets. One such was the Coutts Country Flavor Shop which we stopped at on our way to Murphy Point Camp Ground, close to Perth.

Coutts Country Flavor Shop, Ontario Canada Photo:

Coutts Country Flavor Shop, Ontario Canada

Pulling up in front of the wooden building surrounded by fields, we looked around the store which is part of a 5th generation family farm and sells organic meat, fresh farm veg, local cheeses, their own maple syrup and the famous Ontario butter tarts ( a bit like a treacle tart but not quite as sickly sweet).

Coutts Country Flavor Shop, Ontario Canada Photo:

Coutts Country Flavor Shop, Ontario Canada

Craft beer with a hint of Maple

In nearby Perth we also found the wonderful Perth Brewery to stock up on craft beer to take back to our campground. Surrounded by copper vats and packing benches, the friendly staff at the front counter were more than happy to let us have a taste of the different beers on tap. After trying just a few (we still had to drive the RV) we stocked up on the tins of our choice, to drink later by the campfire. Our favourite was the Canada Maple Ale which had a subtle flavour of maple syrup without too much sweetness – a really enjoyable taste of Canada.

Perth Brewing Company

Perth Brewing Company

A taste of Poutine

Another Canadian speciality that we came to know (but not necessarily love) was Poutine, a dish that’s especially favourite in Quebec. It’s basically french fries, scattered with squeaky curd cheese and drenched in gravy – with variations sold everywhere from roadside food stops to fine dining restaurants. Our first encounter at a roadside food truck was not that promising. Frankly we couldn’t see what the fuss was about, with crispy fries turned into a soggy mess by the gravy (in fact poutine is Québecois slang for mess!).

Poutine at a roadside stop in Ontario Canada Photo:

Poutine at a roadside stop in Ontario Canada

We did give the Poutine another try at Les Brasseurs du Temps in Gatineau and although a slightly more elegant version, we concluded that as a dish it was best saved for those outdoor events in the freezing Canadian winter when you need to carbo-load. In Montreal the ultimate poutine is said to be found at Au Pied de Cochon, where they do a variation with Fois Gras. I could have tasted it at the food truck event in Montreal where the restaurant had a stand but was worried I’d be disappointed again, so I declined – a decision I somewhat regret.

Brasseur de Temps in Gatineau, Canada Photo:

Brasseur de Temps in Gatineau, Canada

Pancakes and Maple Syrup

Another unmissable feature of the Canadian food scene were the pancakes – which were normally served for breakfast with lashings of maple syrup. A meal in themselves, they would keep you going until well after lunchtime – we enjoyed these ones with fresh fruit at a modest roadside diner close to our campground at Parc de Plaissance north of Ottawa.

Parc de Plaisance in Quebec Canada Photo:

Parc de Plaisance in Quebec Canada

A foodie hotspot at Kingston

One of our favourite foodie stops on the road trip through Ontario, was Kingston set beside Lake Ontario. This university town close to historic Fort Henry, punches above its weight when it comes to great artizan food producers, bars and restaurants. As we arrived, a farmer’s market was in full swing, with stall after stall selling perfectly polished peaches and plums, soft fruit, green beans and other fresh produce. We took the opportunity to buy a basket of luscious mixed berries to eat on the go and some butter tarts from the bakery stall as a lunchtime snack.

Farmer's market in Kingston Photo:

Farmer’s market in Kingston Photo:

Kingston had a much more European feel than many of the places we drove through, since the town was established in 1673 at the confluence of the St Lawrence River, at a time before cars (let alone RVs) dominated the town planning. We enjoyed walking around the streets, dipping into coffee shops and meandering through courtyards with secluded restaurant patios like Chez Piggy who also run the Pan Chancho bakery where we stopped for some excellent fresh bread.

Kingston Farmer's market

Kingston Farmer’s market

Beaver Tails in Ottawa

Our road trip next took us north to Canada’s capital Ottawa where we left our RV at the Wesley Clover Campground and took their convenient bus service into the city. After watching the changing of the guards on Parliament hill, our stomachs lead us to Byward Market, the neighbourhood surrounding the covered market building which has numerous food stalls as well as bars and restaurants.

On the recommendation of local blogger Cindy Baker we joined her for lunch at Murray Street, for a delicious plate of local charcuterie and cheeses on their shady patio, before paying the obligatory visit to the BeaverTails stand for desert. The flat pastries (shaped like a Beaver’s Tail) are a cross between a pancake and a doughnut and come with lots of sweet toppings – I was relatively restrained with my choice of buttery maple sauce!

Beavertail Pastry in Ottawa Photo:

Beavertail Pastry in Ottawa Photo:

Craft Beer at Brasseurs de Temps in Gatineau

After our day sightseeing in Ottawa we drove across the river to explore the city from the Quebec side, with an excellent dinner at Brasseurs de Temps in Gatineau. There was definitely a theme developing in the popular restaurants that we visited, being based around breweries offering an ever changing selection of craft beers. Below the restaurant is a quirky little museum about the history of beer in the Outaouais region and you get a look down into area where the beer is being brewed. It was pleasant to sit outside on the patio overlooking the canal and select our beer from from the detailed descriptions on the menu cards – according to which my fruity white beer had aromas of banana and ginger. This is where Guy decided to try the Poutine again but I had a duck salad which was certainly the better choice.

Brasseur de Temps in Gatineau, Canada Photo:

Brasseur de Temps in Gatineau, Canada

Fine dining at Wakefield Inn

A highlight of our foodie quest around the Outaouais region north of Ottawa was the day we spent in Wakefield, a pretty little historic town, full of old houses, craft shops and artizan bakeries and restaurants. After parking the RV in the centre of town, we walked up from the main road to Wakefield Inn, a charming boutique hotel and restaurant which would have made a wonderful spot for a weekend break. The hotel’s restaurant offered a sophisticated alternative to the more casual dining of the brewery restaurants we’d tried.

Wakefield Inn in Wakefield Quebec Photo:

From our table beside the window, we overlooked the mill stream rushing below and I enjoyed my Arctic Char with a pretty arrangement of mushrooms, green beans and other vegetables. The thick stone walls and open fires of the old mill house make for a cosy atmosphere and I can imagine snuggling up here after a winter snowshoe walk on the paths around the hotel.

Lunch at Wakefield Inn

Lunch at Wakefield Inn

We found that the Outaouais region north of Ottawa especially full of fabulous food stops, like the area of Chelsea just outside Gatineau Park, the outdoor playground for the citizens of Ottawa. At the Chelsea Pub we enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere, sitting outside on the patio with live music while drinking our beer and ordering a club sandwich with fries and salad. The same establishment runs Biscotti, a cute little cafe around the corner which is the place to go for coffee, cakes and delicious deserts.

Chelsea Pub by Gatineau Park, Quebec Photo:

Chelsea Pub by Gatineau Park, Quebec Photo:

Chelsea Pub by Gatineau Park, Quebec

While staying at Parc de Plaissance we enjoyed a contrast of luxurious al fresco dining at the Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello and gourmet burgers at Au Délice Champêtre, although both were marked by a typically Canadian relaxed atmosphere and lack of pretension. Le Chateau Montebello is best known as the world’s largest log cabin, although of course it is no garden shed, but a grand hotel that’s stuffed full of hunting-shooting-fishing memorabilia from the time when it was a private club for the great and the good. We dined in the outdoor restaurant overlooking the potager garden and lawns rolling down to the river, with a delicious buffet that had something for all tastes with a choice of steaks and fish cooked to order over the barbecue.

Chateau Fairmont Montebello

Chateau Fairmont Montebello

More down to earth but equally good was Délice Champêtre right opposite the tourist office in Montebello where we were welcomed by the owner Daniel who cooks up gourmet burgers and Belgian fries, using the best ingredients from local suppliers. Next door was a popular ice cream bar with gelato, frozen yoghurts and other classic deserts made on the premises. They even make all their own sauces and relishes to a secret recipe which unfortunately Daniel wouldn’t reveal even though I promised I’d share it with only a few close friends and readers.

Délice Champêtre Montebello in Quebec, Canada Photo:

Délice Champêtre Montebello in Quebec, Canada Photo:

Délice Champêtre Montebello in Quebec, Canada

Our foodie adventures in Canada wouldn’t be complete if we hadn’t tried a bit of campfire cooking. Since we had an extremely well equiped RV from Cruise Canada with gas hob, fridge and freezer it wasn’t exactly a necessity to cook over the open fire. But since every camping space came with a fire pit and a built in grill it seemed a shame not to give it a go, and on our last night in Mont Tremblant National Park we grilled some juicy steak kebabs over the fire for that smoky BBQ flavour.

Parc Mont-Tremblant in Quebec Canada Photo:

Parc Mont-Tremblant in Quebec Canada

The true Canadian tradition of course is to sit around the camp fire toasting marshmallows or s’mores as they are strangely called over there – the name’s an abreviation of ‘I want some more’. After a few attempts we managed to get the right balance of lightly toasted and deliciously melting as opposed to charred black and set on fire.

Parc Mont-Tremblant in Quebec Canada Photo:

Parc Mont-Tremblant in Quebec Canada

And so we reached our final stop at Montreal and dropped off the RV, leaving us a couple of days to explore the city. If I had tell you about the food in Montreal it would be a whole extra article, since there’s such a thriving and vibrant food scene here – among the best food in Canada (or anywhere). If you’d like to find out more about bagels, tacos and maple syrup you’ll have to read my article – How to have a perfect day in Montreal. And while you’re reading it I’ll be mentally settling down in front of the camp fire with a can of that Canada Maple Ale.

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Food adventures in Canada

Where we stayed on our RV Road Trip

Night 1 –  Sheraton Gateway Hotel, Toronto
Night 2 & 3 Algonquin Provincial Park near Whitney, Ontario
Night 4 Murphy’s Point Provincial Park near Kingston, Ontario
Night 5 & 6 Wesley Clover Camp Ground – south of Ottawa
Night 7 &8 Camping Cantley – north of Ottawa
Night 9 Parc de Plaisance  National Park in Quebec
Night 10,11,12 Mont Tremblant National Park in Quebec
Night 13 Le Centre Sheraton Hotel Montreal

More inspiration for your road trip across Canada

Travel with Kat – The Wildlife of Canada’s Clayoquot Sound
The Quirky Traveller – A dash of History and Culture in the Rocky Mountains
On the Luce – Land of the Lakes: Exploring Ontario’s National Parks

Information for planning your trip to Canada

You can find more information to plan your visit to Montreal on the Ontario Tourism Website, the Quebec Original Website, the Tourism Outaouais Website and also on the Explore Canada Website covering all the things to see and do in Canada.

Our RV (Recreational Vehicle) for the two week Explore Canada Road Trip was provided by Cruise Canada.

To compare prices and book for hotels in Canada, visit the HotelsCombined website where you can find the best prices from a range of different booking sites.

My visit to Canada was part of the Explore Canada Road Trip, a project with Travelator Media and Explore Canada

This article is originally published at – Read the original article here

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How to drive an RV from Toronto to Montreal (our top tips)

November 10, 2016 by  
Filed under Canada, featured, Leisure, Nature

As a child our family were great campers, touring Europe with all our gear packed into the Morris Minor. While my parent’s spirit of adventure must have rubbed off on me, I have to admit that my memories are of early morning starts, endless unpacking and the smell of damp grass. Since then I’ve always preferred to have a solid roof over my head. Husband Guy, however, is a natural born camper, relishing the chance to sleep under the stars and brew up over the camp fire. When we were offered the chance to drive an RV across Canada (better known as a motorhome or camper van in the UK) it seemed the perfect compromise that would suit both a comfort lover and a camping addict.

Driving an RV from Toronto to Montreal

Exploring Toronto – our gateway city

Toronto was our gateway city to Canada and after a long flight from the UK it was great to have a bit of time to explore rather than dashing straight off to pick up our RV. From the Sheraton Gateway Hotel by the airport, it was an easy trip downtown on the UP Express train, to spend the afternoon wandering around the harbourside area.

Toronto Skyline Photo:

Toronto Skyline – where we started our RV Road trip

We took the harbour cruise tour, admiring the CN Tower and distinctive Toronto skyline on our boat trip to the islands, ending the evening with a tasty pulled pork burger and flight of craft beers at Amsterdam Brewhouse with a view over the water. It was a great way to start our holiday and relax a little, before picking up our RV the next day from the Cruise Canada rental centre on the ourskirts of Toronto. You can read more about Toronto from On the Luce – Waterfront Toronto

Our Tip: Plan to spend some time exploring your gateway city before you pick up the RV – it’s a chance to settle in and spend time in the city without any parking headaches.

Toronto Harbourside Photo:

Toronto Harbourside

Picking up the RV from Cruise Canada

Checking out of the Sheraton Gateway, we took a taxi to the Cruise Canada rental location where our RV awaited us. Before driving away we watched the Cruise Canada video so we could get familiar with all the features – and then were shown around our RV. It was nice and roomy for two people but would also be fine for a family of up to 6 if you don’t mind cosy sleeping arrangements. While husband Guy was taking note of the instructions for power and water, I was more interested in the large fridge/ freezer, built in shower and loo and a small kitchenette – in fact all the comforts of home!

Picking up our Cruise Canada RV Photo:

Picking up our Cruise Canada RV

As our leg from Toronto to Montreal was part of a longer road trip, and blogging friends Kathryn, Zoe and Lucy had all given their RVs names, we decided to christen ours ‘Monty’ since our journey would end in Montreal. It took us an hour to get familiar with everything and then we were off, with Guy at the wheel, and me navigating – pretty much the pattern for the whole trip. Only five minutes down the road and we stopped at an enormous Wal-Mart and did a major grocery shop – enough food for a few days since we were heading towards Algonquin Provincial Park where there would be limited shopping opportunities.

Weber's Roadside Diner Photo:

Weber’s Roadside Diner

Another essential purchase was the most detailed road map we could find, as although we were able to use Google Maps with our mobile wifi, we needed a back-up for the times when we had no phone signal. Leaving the retail park, we hit the road in earnest to drive north along the highway, with only one stop at Weber’s on Highway 11, a fine roadside diner with plenty of picnic tables on the grassy lawns at the back, to eat our charcoal grilled burger and fries washed down with iced tea. It was great that even with the late start and stops on the way we were able to reach our first campground in the afternoon, with no stress of driving in the dark.

Our Tip: Don’t plan to drive too far on your first day, especially if you’re an RV newbie. You’ll need to allow a couple of hours to familiarise yourself with everything and stock up on provisions.

Arriving at Algonquin Provincial Park

Settling in at Algonquin Provincial Park

Algonquin Provincial Park was our first proper taste of campground life and we arrived in the mid afternoon at Rock Lake, one of the many campgrounds in the park. We checked in with the ranger at the administration building, bought a big bag of wood for our campfire and found our numbered spot among the trees. Parking the RV was definitely a job for two people and I always had to hop out of the RV to direct Guy into our parking spot, ensuring no trees were hit and that we were on level ground.

Rock Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park

Rock Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park

Our spacious camping spot followed a pattern that we found at all the campgrounds we stayed at, which were always set in woodland and beside a lake. Each camping place was equiped with a picnic table and benches, with a metal ring to enclose the fire pit. Although we were self contained with our own shower and loo, there was a shower block and toilets nearby. We had brought our own camping chairs and really all we had to do on arrival was attach the power line and open the beer. It was a far cry from the camping I remembered as a child where we spent hours putting up and taking down the tent.

Algonquin Provincial Park Photo:

Algonquin Provincial Park

Being a true boy scout, Guy’s favourite task on arrival was to lay the campfire, while I would start getting supper ready. Our kitchen area was well equipped, since we had ordered a kitchen pack from Cruise Canada, with dishes, cutlery, pots and pans. I generally cooked on the 4 gas burners in the RV, although the fire pit had a grill, giving us the option for cooking BBQ style.

Lakes in our campgrounds in Canada Photo:

Lakes in our campgrounds in Canada

Before or after dinner there might be swim in the lake, or at least sitting with a beer beside it, often chatting with our neighbours and getting advice about the RV. We stayed a couple of days at Algonquin, giving us the chance to do some canoeing and cycling – keeping our eyes peeled for wildlife. On our guided canoe trip we saw a beaver dive right in front of us but nothing larger, but on our cycle ride we stopped to watch a black bear and its cub up a tree from a safe distance.

Our Tip: Find the balance between the relaxed pace of campground life and trying some of the outdoor activities on offer in Canada’s Parks

Watching a Black Bear at Algonquin

Watching a Black Bear at Algonquin

Driving through the smaller towns of Ontario

After a few days in Algonquin we drove south towards towards Lake Ontario again, stopping at the small town of Perth, where the Stewart Park music festival was in full swing. After the wide roads with hardly any traffic in northern Ontario, this was our first taste of some of the smaller towns and historic places of this region. Perth, with its single main high street lined with shops and restaurants, had a much more European feel and it was one of the few places where we struggled to find a parking spot for the RV. Reaching Kingston, we learned the lesson that in the older historic towns, built before the invention of the car, it was better to research a suitable parking spot on the edge of town and then take the bus into the centre for a more relaxing experience.

Fort Henry and Kingston Photo:

Fort Henry and Kingston

At Fort Henry, the 19th century garrison built above the town of Kingston, we found a huge car park and spent an hour or two in the fort having a guided tour to learn all about the history of the fortress, which was built by the English to defend against French attack from the St Lawrence river. From Fort Henry we walked down the hill to the main road and easily caught the bus – there was also a sightseeing trolley that ran from Fort Henry into town.

Our Tip: When visiting smaller towns, try to research in advance where you can park the RV as it may be better to park on the outskirts and walk or take the bus in.

Farmer's market in Kingston, Ontario pHoto:

Farmer’s market in Kingston, Ontario

In Kingston, the farmer’s market was a pleasure to wander around, looking at the luscious fruit and vegetables from the nearby Niagara region. A motorbike rally was underway, with stunt motorcyclists driving up the ramp to twist and turn in the air. We really enjoyed the atmosphere of this university town, which had a big foodie reputation, and soaked up the atmosphere in a local coffee shop, then bought a few snacks from the Pan Chancho bakery to have for supper.

Our Tip: Farmers markets and roadside stalls are a great place to stock up on fresh fruit and veg and discover some of the regional produce and specialities.

Ottawa – is it possible to visit a city with an RV?

We really wanted to visit Ottawa, Canada’s historic capital, but wondered how much of a challenge it would be while driving an RV. Trying to park in city streets was likely to be a stressful experience, but luckily we resolved this by staying just outside the city at Wesley Clover Camp Ground. We had a spacious camping spot and all the normal amenities, but the campground also ran a shuttle service each day into the city, dropping us off just in time for the changing of the guards and picking us up after a day’s sightseeing around 4pm. We managed to pack in plenty of sightseeing, with a taste of the famous Beavertail pastries, lunch in Byward Market at Murray Street, as well as a look around the glass sided galleries of the National Gallery of Canada.

Visiting Ottawa in Canada Photo:

Visiting Ottawa in Canada

The next day we were heading across the Ottawa River into Quebec province, but we found a suitably large car park by the Robert Guertin Arena which was a 15 minute walk to the Canadian History Museum, where we admired all the First Nation artwork and totem poles. The afternoon was spent cycling along the Ottawa river, crossing the Portage bridge and continuing under the Parliament Building, where we took the cute solar powered ferry back across the river.

Our Tip: It’s perfectly possible to visit Canada’s cities with an RV provided you plan ahead to ensure stress-free parking.

The Covered Bridge at Wakefield

The Covered Bridge at Wakefield

Having fun in Outaouais – north of Ottawa

By the time we got into our second week in the Outaouais region, north of Ottawa, we felt like old hands with the RV. Despite its narrow streets, visiting the historic town Wakefield, and its covered bridge was no problem. We parked in the centre of town and then walked around to admire the colourful craft shops and up the hill to historic Wakefield Mill for lunch by the mill stream.

Driving around Gatineau Park, Ottawa’s outdoor playground, was no problem as the roads were wide and the parking spaces enormous. We stopped within the park to see the Pink Lake, which was actually dark and mysterious like a mirror, and the estate of former Canadian Prime Minister, Mackenzie King.

Pink Lake in Gatineau Park

Pink Lake in Gatineau Park

At Parc Omega, where it might have been a problem to feed carrots to the deer from an RV, we took one of the golf buggies instead – well protected by the metal mesh but still able to see the deer, buffalo and bears. Wherever we stopped with the RV, it was like having our house with us. We always had the option to make a picnic lunch and brew a cup of tea, with no need to worry about finding the rest room.

Feeding deer at Parc Omega in Quebec

Feeding deer at Parc Omega in Quebec

On the campgrounds we were also feeling like a pro when it came to getting settled in to our camping spot. There was only one occasion when the powerline didn’t quite stretch to the electricity supply and we had to borrow an extension lead from one of our friendly neighbours (we late discovered our own in the storage compartment). We would happily get out the rubber gloves and empty the grey water (from the shower and sink) and the black water (from the loo) without any fuss. And we’d learned the importance of a liberal spray of OFF insect repellant, before settling down beside the camp fire, to keep the ever present mozzies at bay.

Our Tip: Relax and enjoy – after a few days you’ll feel like an old hand!

Gatineau Park in Quebec province

Gatineau Park in Quebec province

Mont Tremblant National Park – time to unplug

By the time we reached our final stop at Mont Tremblant National Park we appreciated the freedom that the RV gave us to dip our toe into Canada’s Wilderness. Our campground was close to Lac Monroe and a short drive up the road was a beautiful wooden visitor’s centre of wood and glass with a deck to unwind by the lake.

Mont Tremblant National Park, Quebec, Canada Photo:

Mont Tremblant National Park, Quebec, Canada

In the park we made the most of all the outdoor activities, hiking the trails to get stunning views over the whole park from the look-out points and canoeing down the Meandre de Diable, stopping for picnics on the sandy river shore, a nesting spot for the river turtle. We also tried the Via Ferrata, climbing across the swaying rope bridges and inching across sheer rock faces until the threatening thunderstorm forced us down again. Caught in the rain, we appreciated being able to dive into our RV at the car park to dry off and change our clothes.

Mont Tremblant National Park in Canada Photo:

Mont Tremblant National Park in Canada

The downside of all this wilderness was that once we passed the visitor centre at the entrance to the park, the phone signal become practically non-existant. There was wifi in the discovery centre but I couldn’t always access it, so I had to accept that this was an opportunity to unplug, unwind and enjoy the natural beauty of Canada’s National Parks.

Our Tip: Use your visit to the National Parks as a chance to unplug and enjoy the great outdoors – you’ll be back in the towns and cities soon enough.

Park Mont Tremblant

Park Mont Tremblant

Back to Montreal

As we arrived at the Cruise Canada depot on the outskirts of Montreal I felt mixed feelings about handing back Monty the RV. Monty had given us the freedom to discover Canada’s areas of wilderness and enjoy outdoor activities that were both testing and relaxing. We’d been able to see some historic towns, eat great local food and meet the friendliest of people. Although we were looking forward to city life in Montreal, a spacious hotel room and marble bathroom, a little piece of our hearts remained with Monty the RV.

Read more – How to have a perfect day in Montreal

Where we stayed on our RV Road Trip

Night 1 –  Sheraton Gateway Hotel, Toronto
Night 2 & 3 Algonquin Provincial Park near Whitney, Ontario
Night 4 Murphy’s Point Provincial Park near Kingston, Ontario
Night 5 & 6 Wesley Clover Camp Ground – south of Ottawa
Night 7 &8 Camping Cantley – north of Ottawa
Night 9 Parc de Plaisance  National Park in Quebec
Night 10,11,12 Mont Tremblant National Park in Quebec
Night 13 Le Centre Sheraton Hotel Montreal

Read more tips for driving your RV across Canada

Travel with Kat – Sunshine Coast of Canada Road Trip
Travel with Kat – Vancouver Island – Canada Road Trip
The Quirky Traveller – Top Tips for your RV Road Trip in Canada
On the Luce – Clueless about RV-ing? A first timer’s guide to Canada by Motorhome

Information for planning your trip to Canada

You can find more information to plan your visit to Montreal on the Ontario Tourism Website, the Quebec Original Website and also on the Explore Canada Website covering all the things to see and do in Canada.

Our RV (Recreational Vehicle) for the two week Explore Canada Road Trip was provided by Cruise Canada.

To compare prices and book for hotels in Canada, visit the HotelsCombined website where you can find the best prices from a range of different booking sites.

My visit to Canada was part of the Explore Canada Road Trip, a project with Travelator Media and Explore Canada

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Read about driving an RV from Toronto to Montreal

This article is originally published at – Read the original article here

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My 10 favourite things about Aruba

If you had to choose three words to describe the Caribbean island of Aruba, what would they be? My three words would be; Warm, Colourful and Cosmopolitan. Of course, you’d expect it to be warm, being in the Dutch Antilles and close to the coast of Venezuela. You’ll be welcomed with unfailing warmth too – not for nothing has Aruba adopted the slogan of “One Happy Island’. There’s colour not only in the houses painted blue, yellow, pistachio and pink, but unexpectedly in the street art murals that we found in San Nicholas, created for the recent Aruba Art Fair.

10 favourite things to do in Aruba

This was my first visit to Aruba and I discovered an island that is well developed for tourism, with plenty of hotels and apartments concentrated along the sandy beaches west of Oranjestad and a sophisticated restaurant scene. There’s also a cosmopolitan mix of cultures, with most locals speaking several languages; typically Dutch, English and Spanish as well as their own language of Papiamento.

Tourism is an important part of the island’s economy and with visitors outnumbering the locals, it took me a while to put my finger on what makes Aruba unique and different to its Caribbean neighbours. My week in Aruba took me from designer shopping malls to the prickly beauty of Arikok National Park, from the white sand beaches of the south to the black volcanic rocks and crashing waves of the northern shore. Here are some of the favourite memories and experiences I took home from Aruba.

1. The white sand beaches of the southern shore

Well you can’t come to the Caribbean without talking about the beaches. It’s the white sand beaches and all-year-round sunshine that keep visitors coming back, to escape the cold weather back home. While we were there, a hurricane was battering the Florida coast, and while Aruba had escaped with just some rain showers, storms out at sea had washed piles of seaweed onto the famous white beaches. Admittedly we weren’t seeing them at their best, but by the end of the week the beaches had been practically cleared of storm debris and were back to normal.

Moomba beach Aruba Photo:

Moomba beach Aruba

One of the beach spots I enjoyed most was in front of the Moomba Beach Bar where we spent the afternoon paddleboarding and also had a delicious seafood lunch on the verandah restaurant at Nos Clubhuis. It’s part of Palm beach, a broad strip of sand, backed by hotels and apartments, with plenty of places to stop for a snack and drink and also a centre for watersports.

Beaches of Aruba Photo:

Beaches of Aruba

Eagle beach, right in front of the Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort where we were staying was another favourite, with two of the famous fofoti (also known as divi divi) trees growing on the beach, a popular spot for wedding photographs. Since the beach was just across the road from the hotel, I was able to enjoy it at all times of the day, from the pastel pink sunrise to the golden sunset. As dusk fell, the hotel set out tables for its beach restaurant, Passions on the beach, where we had an elegant dinner looking out to sea with the sand under our toes. Baby Beach, close to San Nicholas is another popular beach, especially for families and there is hardly any development around the beach, but I found the view of the refinery in the distance somewhat detracted from its charm.

2. Aruba’s wild northern shore

My favourite beaches were actually on Aruba’s wild northern shore, where there is hardly any development at all. The waves here are pretty rough so it’s inadvisable to swim unless you take local advice or are there for the surfing. You need a car, preferably a 4 wheel drive, to visit this part of the island but there are also plenty of jeep safaris that will take you around to see the beaches and main sites.

North Coast of Aruba Photo:

North Coast of Aruba

Our tour took us first to Ayo rock, a cluster of boulders that looks as if a giant dropped a random pile of rocks in the middle of the countryside. It’s free to enter the fenced enclosure that surrounds them and look at the cave paintings nearby. Most visitors probably just stop to take their photo from a distance but there are trails that lead up through the boulders. I would have headed off from the group to explore them more fully but had a sudden ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ premonition that I might get lost wandering among them.

We continued by car to the Bushiribana ruins of an old gold mine which you can climb up onto for a view over the sea. Gold was discovered here in 1824 and this was the site of the old smelting works built in 1872 but only in use for a decade before it fell into disrepair. On the same stretch of coast is a rock arch known as the Natural Bridge, although the larger of the two arches collapsed in 2005, and I found the wild landscape and waves crashing on the shore more of an attraction than the sea arch itself.

North Coast of Aruba Photo:

North Coast of Aruba

3. Aruba’s sophisticated restaurant scene

As I love to try local flavours when I travel, I was impressed by Aruba’s varied and sophisticated restaurant scene. We were visiting during Eat Local restaurant week when many of the island’s restaurants have good value menus with lunch at a set price of $15 and dinner at $30 or $40. I mainly chose the seafood options, with plenty of grilled fish such as Mahi Mahi served with Pan Bati, the local pancake style bread. At Nos Clubhuis I loved my starter, a bowl of chunky ceviche and at Driftwood, decorated with fishing nets and driftwood, we would have been served the fish that we’d caught while Deep Sea Fishing, but sadly we came back from that fishing trip empty handed.

Lunch at Nos Clubuis in Aruba Photo:

Lunch at Nos Clubuis in Aruba

While there were plenty of different eating options in Oranjestad and Palm Beach, one place that stuck out for the local character with Charlie’s Bar in San Nicolas. The bar had been run by three generations of Charlies, was stuffed full of paintings, memorabilia and bric-a-brac, much of it contributed by customers over the years and served an excellent plate of giant shrimp for lunch. For elegant poolside ambiance, we ate at White Modern Cuisine, situated in the Gold Coast Clubhouse, where the chef uses local seafood but incorporates Asian flavours in some of the dishes.

Seafood on Aruba Photo:

Seafood on Aruba

For healthy daytime snacks we stopped at CRAFT at Palm Beach where the coffee was excellent and I ordered a fruit bowl as a late breakfast after our yoga session. At Garden Fresh Cafe, where I had an Asian Delight wrap and Blueberry Booster smoothie for lunch, I could practically feel the pounds falling off my waistline as I walked through the door.

Healthy Eating on Aruba Photo"

Healthy Eating on Aruba

Finally if you need a place to stop for breakfast, or a snack as you drive around the island, I’d highly recommend the Huchada Bakery in Santa Cruz. With yellow walls and blue painted shutters it has the ambiance of a traditional Aruban house and serves the tasty Aruban breakfast snack of pastechi (filled pastries), as well as coffee and fresh juices.

Huchada Bakery in Aruba

Huchada Bakery in Aruba

4. The coloured houses of Aruba

As we drove around the island I noticed how Aruban houses were often painted in bright colours – yellow and blue were especially popular but I saw many other rainbow shades. On our final evening we had the pleasure of dining with a local family who showed us around their traditional style house. At the front of a typical Aruban house, runs a long room that is used to greet guests, while the family living room and bedrooms are behind this in the main part of the house. The back or front of the house is normally oriented towards the prevailing winds to allow natural air conditioning as the wind can circulate from one side to the other.

Coloured houses of Aruba Photo:

Coloured houses of Aruba

In Oranjestad much of the architecture is modern but there are a few older houses painted in vivid colours, with ornate plasterwork to decorate the windows and doors. I enjoyed walking along the road beside Fort Zoutman and into the main shopping area behind the Renaissance Mall where the Dutch colonial style had been used above the shops in pretty pastel shades.

Colourful buildings in Aruba

Colourful buildings in Aruba

5. History and culture around Oranjestad

While in Oranjestad, it’s worth looking beyond the branded fashion stores to discover something of Aruba’s history. The Archaeological Museum is housed in a most photogenic set of old buildings, which were built in the late 19th century, and it’s free so worth popping in. You’ll learn about the melting pot of nationalities that went to make Aruban society, from Amerindian to Spanish colonisation, overlaid with Dutch and English trading influences.

Archaeology Museum Aruba Photo:

Archaeology Museum Aruba

Also in the centre of Oranjestad, on a street that once formed the original waterfront, is the Historical Museum, housed in Fort Zoutman. The fortress was built in 1796 for defence against English attack and the tower was added in 1868 as a lighthouse, later becoming a clocktower. We attended an evening display of music and dancing called the Bon Boni festival which is held here weekly and I enjoyed the museum’s exhibition about traditional weaving which changes a couple of times a year. Did you know that the weaving of straw hats was an important source of income for many families in the past? On show were colourful artworks inspired by the theme of weaving by contemporary local artists like Vanessa Paulina who we later met in San Nicholas.

History and culture in Aruba Photo:

History and culture in Aruba

6. Street art in San Nicholas

Further down the coast from Oranjestad is San Nicholas, Aruba’s second largest town with the island’s oil refinery. If you’re looking for a more authentic Caribbean vibe you’ll find it here, but since the oil refinery closed in 2009, there’s also a feeling of a place that has seen better days. One thing that is putting San Nicholas on the map again is the street-art that covers many of the buildings, as a result of this year’s Aruba Art Fair.

Street art in San Nicholas Photo:

Street art in San Nicholas

We met with artist Vanessa Paulina who has been commissioned to create a mural on one of the buildings and took us into the art centre for a painting workshop. I chatted to Tito Bolivar, the Aruba Art Fair organiser and owner of the ArtisA Gallery (stands for Art is Aruba) about the project which took place for the first time in September 2016.

Aruba street art Photo:

Aruba street art

As well as inviting local and international artists to work on the murals, the three day festival included stalls for local artists to sell their work, an exhibition in the art gallery, a music and dance festival and a culinary competition where teams of chefs created an original desert inspired by a piece of art. Being from Bristol, where Street Art is a big deal I really loved all the fabulous murals around the town and would definitely recommend visiting San Nicholas to see them for yourself. While in San Nicholas, you might also consider popping into Charlie’s Bar for lunch, for even more local colour.

7. Getting active on the water

If you enjoy watersports you’ll find no shortage in Aruba and the first thing I spotted when we arrived on Moomba beach was someone being shot scarily high above the water on a Jetpack attached to the Jetski. We were there to try our hand at paddleboarding, a first for me, under the expert instruction of Denis from Aruba Surf & Paddleschool. Dennis showed us how to start by kneeling on the board and then slowly stand up while keeping our balance to avoid an undignified dunking. The paddling and balancing required a surprising amount of core strength and I’m sure that if I did it long enough my body would become lean and toned like all those bikini girls in the brochures. For now I was just concerned about not falling in, and managed to make it a decent way out before turning back towards the safety of the beach.

Paddleboarding in Aruba Photo:

Paddleboarding in Aruba

We also tried Deep Sea Fishing while we were in Aruba and the idea of spending an hour or two catching our dinner sounded like a good one in theory. However, I have to admit that it was not my favourite activity as the constant swell just made me feel queazy and I spent most of my time hardly daring to move from the back of the boat. Much more pleasurable was the early morning yoga session on the beach with the graceful Maria from Cacao Yoga. While I was useless at the yoga poses I did enjoy gazing alternately through the leafy branches above us or out to the ocean beyond.

Sports and fitness on Aruba Photo:

Sports and fitness on Aruba

8. Tasting the edible plants of Aruba

One of the highlights of my week on Aruba was meeting Frank Kelly, a.k.a. Taki the Forager. We found him on one of the wild north coast beaches, for a deliciously refreshing cocktail made of avocado and basil topped up with sugar, water and a splash of lime – and of course an optional slug of rum. Cactus tempura is one of Frank’s specialities, but for us he produced a colourful basket of flowers picked locally, to tickle our taste buds.

Frank Kelly - Taki the forager on Aruba Photo:

Frank Kelly – Taki the forager on Aruba

We munched and sniffed our way through a selection of flowers including peppery moringa which can be used to make a super-food smoothie, fragrant kawara that was used back-in-the-day to perfume your house, and frangipani that could be used to give champagne a fragrant kick. As well as sharing the foraging skill that he learned from his grandparents, Frank is a graffiti artist, bodyboarder and creator of cool pop-up events on Aruba and Bonaire. “I like to be unplugged” he told us, admitting that he barely used any social media to promote his talents, ” I like to stay close to nature, to go barefoot and just have enough for the day.” As if to prove the point, Frank plunged into the crashing waves and returned to the beach minutes later with three different kinds of seaweed, including Dulce and Agar that’s used as an alternative to to gelatine. If you’re visiting Aruba and want to book a foraging session with Frank, he can be contacted through his Facebook page – search for Taki Aruba

Foraging on Aruba Photo:

Foraging on Aruba

Aruba is also a big grower of Aloe Vera, known for its healing and cooling properties. You’ll see the spiky plants all around the island and if you snap off one of the fleshy leaves, they ooze a yellow sap that is used for healing on wounds and burns. Look out for the Aruba Aloe shops around the island that sell a range of Aloe based lotions and cosmetics or visit the Aloe Vera factory and museum for a fascinating insight on how the plant is used.

9. Hiking in the Arikok National Park

For my visit to the Arikok National Park in the north-east corner of the island, I had to be up early before the heat of the day became too much. I was met by my enthusiastic guide, Stanson at the large visitor centre where there were exhibits and information about the flora and fauna to be found in the park. Stanson took me along the Cucucu Arikok circular trail, a well marked gravel path bordered by stones which meandered through a landscape of spiky cactus and thorny trees. To be honest, it would have been difficult to get lost, but Stanson’s knowledge and enthusiasm about the plants and trees was infectious. Without him I’d never have spotted the edible pink berry hidden in the top of a small, round cactus, or known about the tree that bears fruit after a rainstorm, making it a magnet for giant iguanas.

Arikok National Park Aruba

Arikok National Park Aruba

Along the path we passed overhanging rocks with native cave paintings of iguanas and birds that were thought to be painted by Shaman, while in a trance connecting with the spirit world. At the furthest end of the path before we circled back was a white adobe house, a recreation of an old Aruban dwelling that had been preserved to show the construction techniques and way of living. A bat flitted over our heads, nesting in the rafters, which Stanson explained would provide a polination service for the plants on Aruba.

Arikok National Park Aruba Photo:

Arikok National Park Aruba

While our two hour walk was undemanding, there are plenty of more challenging trails in the park, some of which require climbing and abseiling to complete. If we’d had more time I’d have loved to have continued along the trail to the coast, where there’s a large natural pool enclosed by rocks, locally known as Conchi, where you can swim.

10. Stay at Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort

During my week in Aruba, I stayed at the Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort, a delightful hotel that’s just across the road from Eagle Beach. The hotel is family owned and was built 25 years ago in traditional style with Dutch gables, painted in the warm yellow that you see everywhere on Aruban buildings. I was extremely comfortable, sharing a suite with two bedrooms and a first floor balcony looking towards the sea, furnished in traditional Caribbean style with dark wood furniture, brightly coloured walls and citrus shades of lime, lemon and tangerine.

Amsterdam Manor Hotel Aruba Photo:

Amsterdam Manor Hotel Aruba

The outside areas of the hotel were beautifully maintained with paved areas, trees and immaculate planting, with a welcoming pool area and the shady Mango restaurant, where we had breakfast. The hotel is ideal for couples who want to relax by the pool or on the beach, while having a well located base for exploring Oranjestad and all the other sights of Aruba.

The staff could not have been more friendly and helpful and they even have a dedicated Romance Co-ordinator to help you organise your beach wedding or celebration event. The Fofoti trees opposite the hotel are a favourite for wedding photos and the Passions on the Beach restaurant where we ate one evening is an incredibly romantic setting to have a cocktail and dinner as the sun sets over the ocean.

Amsterdam Manor Hotel Photo:

Amsterdam Manor Hotel

For more information, visit the Amsterdam Manor Beach resort website or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest. Address: J.E. Irausquin Blvd. 252, P.O. Box 1302, Oranjestad, Aruba.

I recommend visiting Aruba for the warmth of the all year round sunshine and the safe and friendly atmosphere. You’ll enjoy the island’s Caribbean colour, vibrant painted buildings, the creativity and street art of San Nicholas. Taste your way through the cosmopolitan food scene with fabulous local seafood and international flavours with a mix of cultural influences. As our yoga teacher Maria told us, “Whatever kind of holiday you want, whatever kind of life you want to live, you can find it on Aruba”.

Visitor Information for Aruba

For more information to plan your holiday in Aruba, visit the Aruba Tourism Website or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Pinterest

Thanks to Aruba Tourism for hosting my week’s stay in Aruba to discover the island.

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