Mar 10, 2013 14:55 - Regina Falkowski | 1,236 views
It started with a bucket list and a couple items I wanted to check off this winter, including dog sledding and visiting Canada for the first time. With these items in mind I decided to plan a dog sledding trip in Canada and accomplish 2 activities in one getaway. It was bound to be the perfect combination between Canadian wilderness and city life all bundled up into a 3 day, 2 night package. I knew that the trip would be a blast, but I never knew how amazing the entire experience would truly be.
Shooting for a 12:30 pm arrival time and running on literally no sleep, we hit the road at 4:00 am and started our 6 hour drive north to Wentworth-Nord, Quebec where we were scheduled to embark on the dog sledding portion of our adventure. With 5 girls packed into one car and with a snow storm in the forecast we gave ourselves plenty of time for bad driving conditions and a few pit stops (bathroom breaks) along the way.
When we left Boston the weather was more rainy than snowy, but our drive north quickly progressed into a full blown whiteout. We witnessed a major accident involving a minivan and a guardrail and 4 other cars spun out off the highway. Luckily I drive a Jeep Wagoneer which is a beast in the snow, but passing these accident scenes was a reminder to take it easy even though we had a deadline to meet. We drove for about 2 hours through the storm, and as soon as the sun began to rise the plows were out in action clearing the roads and we were finally able to pick up speed.
Before arriving at the dog sledding location we needed to make a pit stop at a foreign exchange facility and convert our money, so as soon as we crossed the border we visited an ICE International Currency Exchange in Laval, Quebec. Converting our money took longer than expected and by the time we got back to the car we had only half an hour to get to the dog sledding location, which was and hour away. I figured we could make up some lost time on the highway, but as we were waiting at a red light my car stalled out and wouldn’t turn back over. I tried, and tried, and tried again but I could not start my car back up. I was forced to call AAA for a tow and while we were waiting for the tow truck to arrive I was able to start my car and get it out of the intersection and into a parking lot nearby.
Shortly after, the tow truck arrived and as nice as the driver was he did not speak much English and we did not speak much French which only complicated the situation. Since it was a Sunday we didn’t have many options of where to get my car towed and we were trying to figure out if we should get towed close to where we were or close to the vacation rental we were scheduled to stay at that night. To top it all off we were trying to communicate with the dog sledding company and let them know we had broken down and would not be able to make it. Of course, they were less than thrilled at this news and said there was a possibility that we would still have to pay for the activity and there may not be another time they could schedule us in. Not only was I extremely upset that we were missing out on dog sledding, but I was also possibly going to have to pay for it still, my car was broken down in another country and 4 girls were relying on me to carry out the amazing getaway I planned for us. Talk about stressful!
After collaborating for about 20 minutes we realized there was a Budget Car Rental company in the parking lot we broke down in so we decided to have the car towed a mile up the road to Canadian Tire and rent a car to take us to the vacation rental that night. Even though we started making progress I was still really bummed about the whole situation because it looked like the highlight of our trip wasn’t going to happen and I couldn’t help but feel responsible for ruining the trip since it was my car that broke down. Before heading to the cabin rental we stopped at a local bar called Nickles to grab some food and drinks and unwind from the craziness we just experienced.
It didn’t take us long to make friends at the bar and soon enough we were shooting the shit with the employees at the bar and explained to them everything we had just been through, including the fact that the main reason we went to Canada was to go dog sledding and we missed it. Luckily, the owner of the bar, Waddah, took a liking to us and took it upon himself to become my second opinion when I got a quote from Canadian Tire about my car repairs, call the dog sledding company and convince them to re-schedule us for the next morning with no additional fees and also buy us a round of beers. My trip went from wildly off course to back on track all because of the good graces of Waddah. He was my Canadian angel
Now that our trip was starting to look up we all let loose at Nickles bar and had an amazing night getting down with the local Canadians. We headed to our cabin rental around 8:30 pm for a 9:45 pm arrival and spent the remainder of the night drinking wine in the outdoor hot tub and relaxing by the fire. Since we had to be at the dog sledding location by 8:30 am we weren’t taking any chances, so we set out early in the morning with plenty of time to spare.
When we arrived at the dog sledding location the woman wasn’t exactly our biggest fan and I got the impression that she didn’t believe that we missed our originally scheduled departure because our car broke down. However, after some time I think she realized we were genuine and warmed up to us in the end.
Overall dog sledding was a blast. I am a huge animal lover and was a little concerned about how the dogs would be treated, but let me tell you these dogs love what they do! One of the most important rules we were told was to treat the dogs with love and respect. This rule put a smile on my face. Every dog they own is socialized, friendly and well behaved because they are so loved by their owners and the visitors that meet them. It was amazing to see how the dogs responded to sledding and I noticed that whenever I did something wrong, like not put enough pressure on the foot break and lose the tension in the line, my lead dog Mushka would turn around and look at me. I wasn’t sure if she was checking to make sure me and the sled were still behind her or if she was telling me to pick up the slack, but clearly she knew what she was doing so I didn’t ask any questions.
After dog sledding we worked up quite an appetite so we stopped to grab a late lunch on the way back to Laval where we traded the rental car back in for my Wagoneer. Once we were all packed up and back in the Wag we were off to begin the second half of our trip and headed to Montreal. It was then that it hit me how unbelievable it was that despite all the obstacles that got in the way we somehow made it back on track without sacrificing any of our scheduled activities.
We arrived at our hotel in Montreal and the concierge was nice enough to help us carry in our belongings. The hotel we stayed at, Parc Suites Hotel, comfortably fit all 5 of us girls with room to spare. It came equipped with a bedroom, living room with a pull out couch and a cot that fit 5 comfortably, a kitchenette and a balcony overlooking the city. The only downfall to the hotel was the fact that there was no hot water, but luckily none of us are high maintenance so a cold shower wasn’t going to ruin our night. It was a bit quiet out in Montreal since it was a Monday night, but we were still able to find a couple pubs and clubs worth visiting and partied until 3:00 in the morning.
The next day we woke up, packed up the car once again and hit the town for breakfast and shopping. We ate at a delicious restaurant called Cora right below our hotel which featured an amazing menu full of eggs, crepes and fruit. I wish we had these restaurants back in the states because everything was so fresh and delicious! After breakfast we headed downtown and explored the underground mall and a few souvenir shops where we stocked up on memorabilia to take back to our friends and family. After shopping we headed back to the Wag where we began our venture back home. After over 14 hours of driving, a broken down car and less than 10 hours of sleep I officially fell in love with Canada.
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