I'm running away to Canada! (Seeking advice from locals)

OK, so my PhD writtens are in five weeks, and after a long summer of studying I have come to the conclusion that the only course that remains to me is to flee the country. Drastic, but necessary. I have Stratford Festival tickets, so if my committee members ask I will pretend this is an educational trip, and hope they don’t notice that I will be gone for fifteen days and I’m actually flying into Montreal. (Hey, they speak French in Montreal, and French is also educational. Vraiment?)

I’m flying out of Toronto, and Quebec City and Niagara Falls are also tentatively on the itinerary … and I’m not sure where else. Maybe Ottawa, but then again, I’d like to see some smaller towns, as long as they’re accessible by train or bus (I’m a nervous driver at home, and I don’t have any money anyway, so renting a car in a strange city is not an option). Recommendations, anyone?

What is the weather like in mid-to-late September? Do I pack shorts? Winter clothes? Raingear? All of the above?

Also, before I spring for a rail pass, I’d like to hear from anyone who has used VIA rail extensively. Do the trains usually run on time, or is it more like Amtrak, where the schedule is highly theoretical? Can you usually buy tickets on the day of travel, or do you need to make reservations beforehand?

I’ve probably got more questions, but I don’t know what they are yet, so I’ll be back. Thanks in advance for any help y’all can offer.

Today in Montreal, the temp was ~21 C. A raincoat might not be bad, but winter clothes? Puh-leeze.

Pack a couple sweatshirts, because the temperature will randomly drop at times for no apparent reason. As for the rest? Bring an umbrella, make sure your backpack is waterproof, and get some good walking shoes. :slight_smile:

-whispers- Try the poutine

Ah, but where I come from, sweatshirts are winter clothes. I have a feeling I may have to adjust my vocabulary.

Thanks for the responses so far. Anybody have experience with the rail system at all?

So you’re going where it snows all year?
Where life can have real meaning?
A place where you won’t have to hear
“Your room could stand some cleaning.”

The timber wolves will be your friends
you’ll stay up late and howl
at the moon, till nighttime neds
before going on the prowl.

Oh what I life, I’m sure you cannot wait
to be in that arctic land.
You’ll be the masters of your fate
and lead a life that’s grand!

No more of those PhD rules!
You’re heading for some snow
Good riddance to those educational ghouls!
You’re leaving, Yukon Ho!

The Yukon, now there’s an idea. Of course I’d have to toss the return ticket, but I have always wanted to do that.

How many honey ‘n’ marshmallow sandwiches do you think I would need to survive?

Just out of curiosity, which Stratford shows have you got tickets for? I saw their production of the Henry VI/Richard III cycle – Henry VI was pretty good, though not as good as last year’s RSC production (which I fear has spoiled me forever when it comes to theater), but Richard III was just mediocre. And you end up seeing more of Tom McCamus than most people would ever want to. :stuck_out_tongue:

As usual, I’m in complete agreement with Katisha’s Shakespearean criticism. I liked Henry VI - Revenge in France, thought Henry VI - Revolt in England, was even better, and found Tom McCamus the most fussy and unfrightening Richard III possible. My image of Richard III can be summarised by one of our esteemed Dopers’ sig: “It’s called evil, kid.” Evil. Not fussiness. The actor playing the young Richard III in Henry VI - Revolt in England got it right. He was smart, and evil, and having a blast. Unfortunately, that simple vision didn’t carry through to the staging of Richard III.

We also saw Threepenny Opera, starring McCamus as MacHeath. Unrelievedly gloomy staging, punctuated by outbreaks of Wagnerian Marxism. I’ve never seen it before, but friends have seen it in different stagings and tell me it’s good. I’m not convinced.

My Fair Lady was fun and frivolous, but if you’ve seen the movie, you’ve already got a good idea what it’s like.

The best of the lot was Brian Bedford’s one man show on Shakespeare, The Lunatic, the Lover and the Poet. It was marred somewhat by the fact that the Beloved and I ended up sitting next to half a dozen little old ladies from New York who were there because this is culture, dammit! Loud mutterings from them about these Canadian actors who mumble and refuse to use mikes, “so you won’t be able to hear them very well, dear.” One was a gum-cracker, another fell asleep and started to snore, while a third chirped in when Bedford began the ‘Tomorrow and tomorrow’ speech from the Scots play. It was evidently a favourite piece for her, as she began to recite it along with him, in a carrying voice. She also was going faster than him, so it was polyphony, rather than stereo.

Once I started to think of them as groundlings, I managed to get past it. (Until one of them farted at us as we were filing out.)

But all of that is a bit of a side issue. With respect to your questions, if you’re staying within southern Ontario and Quebec (i.e. - what’s called the Windsor-Quebec corridor), you’ll find VIA pretty reliable. It’s how I got around when I was a student in Ontario and Quebec. Last time I used it was two years ago, and I booked my tickets on the Via Rail webpage, which worked fine. I would recommend booking your tickets a few days in advance, but I’ve never been unable to get a ride on VIA, even on short notice - the only difficulty is that on short notice, you may not get the departure time you want, which may make connexions difficult.

I don’t know if VIA would run to Niagra/Niagra-on-the Lake, so you may have to switch to a bus. I would recommend both, but preferred Niagra-on-the-Lake - you could squeeze in some Shaw, and present the ticket stubs to your committee as further proof of the educational nature of your trip. :slight_smile:

Ottawa and Quebec City are two of my favourite Central Canadian destinations - highly recommended. Two attractions in Ottawa that I always enjoy are the East Block, with the original offices of the early Prime Ministers and the first Cabinet room (although I think it’s only open weekends and holidays) and Laurier House, former private residence of Prime Ministers Laurier and King. You can go from T.O. to Ottawa by VIA, and from Ottawa to Quebec City.

As for clothing - last time we were there in September, there was a heat wave and we were wearing shorts and t-shirts. Other times, especially at Quebec City, you can get dramatic cold fronts, and need jeans, sweaters, and light jackets in September - typical “New England fall” type weather. In short - highly unpredictable (but snow is unlikely. :slight_smile: )

Oh, forgot to mention - we found that the VIA schedule from Toronto to Stratford was unworkable (Stratford not being on the Corridor, there was only one train per day) so we went there by bus, with a change at Kitchener. It took about two hours. Coming back, the bus dropped us at the Royal York hotel in Toronto, which runs a shuttle straight to Pearson Airport, which was very convenient.

Katisha – The two Henry VI plays and King Lear. (And thanks for relieving my disappointment at not being able to fit in Richard III – sounds like I’m not missing a whole lot.)

Thanks for all the information, Northern Piper – just what I needed to know, and the ShawFest does sound tempting (as if I hadn’t already spent enough on theater tickets!) I’ll have to check it out.

You’re not, really. I went back and saw it because I wanted closure :wink: but it was, on the whole, a disappointing experience (though it wasn’t entirely without its good points). Also, it was kind of jarring because, even though it’s presented as the end of a cycle, it’s staged essentially as a standalone (I’m guessing they figured more people would want to see Richard III than Henry VI, and they probably figured correctly). This annoyed me.

Anyway, I’d love to hear what you think of the plays you’re seeing – personally, I’m disappointed about not getting to see Lear. Lousy end-of-August opening… But this is all a big thread hijack, and I know next to nothing about travel possibilities in Canada, so I’ll bow out now. :wink:

(Incidentally, I’ve only been to the Shaw Festival once, and it was ten years ago, but as I recall it was pretty cool.)

Fret, if you will be in the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal-Quebec City corridor and are interested in seeing some smaller towns, I heartily recommend a stopover in Kingston (more or less between TO and Ottawa). Some of the finest pre-Confederation architechture in the country (I know this is laughable to our Yurpean friends, but anyway…), pretty good dining and shopping for a town its size, and a mittful of museums (John A Mc Donald’s house, the Penitentary Museum, Maritime Museum with a drydocked icebreaker, Old Fort Henry (build to keep the Merkins out way back when…)

Well, I really dig the place, anyway. It’s got a relaxed collegial feel, kind of like, well, Chapel Hill (my BIL lives in Durham and works at RTP). If you wanna know more you can contact me, and for that matter there are a bunch of Queen’s Alum on this board, too.

Have fun travelling in any case! And remember, your tourism dollar goes further north of the border (They tell us on the radio to say that :p)

'vark of the Kingstonian Boosterism Club [sub](not to be confused with the other KBC)[/sub]

Kingston would be an excellent stop. I highly recommend you stop there and head straight to the Kingston Brewing Company on Clarence Street. Order their Dragon Wings and whatever beer they’re whipping up that sounds good.

Once you’re sufficiently mellow, hit the museums, or just take a stroll down Princess St. and go shopping. The restaurants are excellent, the city is beautiful, and the women, if you are so inclined, are unquestionably the most beautiful in the world. There is no better town on God’s green earth.

Oil thigh na Banrighinn
a’Banrighinn gu brath!
Cha-Gheill! Cha-Gheill!
Go Q U E EN’S!

Queen’s College colours we are wearing once again!
Soiled as they are by the battle and the rain!
Yet another victory will wash away the stain!


Kingston, hmm? I’ll check that out too. 'Fraid the beautiful women won’t do that much for me, as I’m a heterosexual female, but museums are always good.

Once again, thanks to all.

I say all of the above, as far as clothes go, at least in Montreal. We generally have no fall, so we go from one extreme to the other pretty quick.


I present two songs from Queens, conveniently hidden for those with delicate sensibilities and subject to political correctness.

Shit on, shit on, shit on the commies below, below.
Shit on, shit on, shit on the commies below.


They are they are they are they are they are the engineers
and although they won’t admit it they are all a bunch of queers
and anybody can drink about twice as many beers
as a motherfuckin assbuggerin engineer.

Avoid Kingston. There’s nothing there except a bunch of townies who aspire to inhabit one of several local penitentiaries.

Montreal is great. Toronto sprawls like a benignly tumourous New York. Quebec city is tourism-worthy. My mum loves Stratford.

If you find the train schedule sucks (which it very well may), the bus is always an alternative. Not necessarily a great alternative, but catching a ride on Voyageur is probably much more frequent and less expensive than the train.

Mrs. RickJay informs me that the men in Kingston are as impressive as the women.

Barbarian, you live up to your name.