It wasn’t quite love at first sight as we picked up our RV from the Cruise Canada centre in Toronto. Our new motor-home-from-home was pretty enough, decorated with scenic landscapes and even a friendly dog painted at the window. But would driving a vehicle this size for two weeks across Canada be a recipe for a relaxing holiday?
It all seemed straightforward, as we were shown around the motor home and given a thick manual that we never opened again. There were comfy bed spaces – check. An efficient shower and toilet – check. There was even a fully equipped kitchen with fridge and freezer, so we could stock up on provisions to keep us going in the wild places of Ontario and Quebec. As a sign of friendship we gave our RV a name, ‘Monty’, since we were heading for Montreal.
As we hit the road heading north to Algonquin Provincial Park we quickly got used to Monty’s size. The roads in Canada seemed a lot wider than in the UK, with houses and shops spread far apart. In a county where everything just seemed BIG, the RV’s size was no longer such an issue.
By the time we reached our first campground by Rock Lake in Algonquin we had mentally shifted into the RV lifestyle. Our RV was tucked under the trees within sight of Rock Lake - there’s a lake everywhere you look in Canada. It was magic to make a coffee in the morning and drink it by the lake, taking in the cool air and stillness of the water. With so much space we found that driving around the national parks we visited was a breeze - no traffic jams and huge car parks.
Driving became a little more challenging as we passed through historic towns like Perth and Kingston, established in the early 19th century and feeling more European in scale. In Perth we drove through as their summer festival was in full swing and struggled to find parking, although plenty of friendly Canadians came up to give us advice and admire our dog at the window.
Motorbike Rally in Kingston
By Kingston we realised that leaving the RV on the edge of smaller towns was the answer. We did the tour of Fort Henry, a historic site built overlooking the river in the 1800s to defend the town, then caught the bus into Kingston to wander around the farmer’s market where a motorbike rally in full swing. Kingston is a student town and foodie hub so we grazed on fruit and butter tarts from the market, drank good coffee and stocked up on sourdough from the Pan Chancho bakery.
Although we normally cooked evening meals in the RV, shopping for local produce in the markets or farm shops was a joy. We bought punnets of plump strawberries and redcurrants and admired the neat piles of green beans and mottled heirloom tomatoes from the farms of the Niagara valley. Every town seemed to have it’s own micro-brewery too, so every few days we’d stock up on beer to drink around the campfire in the evening - the Maple beer from the Perth Brewing Company was our favourite.
At Ottawa we managed to spend a day in the city, since the Wesley Clover Campground just outside the city ran a convenient shuttle bus into town. We watched the changing of the guard on Parliament Hill, admired the views over the Ottawa river, munched on sweet Beavertail pastries in Byward market and spent the afternoon absorbing the art and culture at the glass walled National Gallery.
As we crossed the Ottawa river into Quebec we felt a change in the lifestyle and language, with French spoken everywhere and a stronger European feel. The French influence filtered through to the food too. Now the regional dish of Poutine, a mixture of chips, curd cheese and gravy, was served with fois gras. At Wakefield we stocked up on maple syrup fudge in the confiserie and noticed croissants alongside the choc chip cookies in the bakery.
We had a delightful time visiting Gatineau Park and Parc national de Plaisance, cycling and hiking by the river, but being so close to Ottawa it felt as if nature had been tamed a little. At Parc Omega, we drove through the safari park in a rented buggy to feed carrots to the deer and see the wolves, bear, bison and moose in large enclosures. The park was teeming with families and seemed to pack a taste of the Canadian wilderness into a small space.
Heading north to Parc Mont-Tremblant we felt the call of the wild once more and Monty the RV seemed to have found its spiritual home. Adventure was on our doorstep as we tried canoeing, hiking and even climbed a Via Ferrata.
After two weeks we had perfected the art of RV living, filling up the water tank and emptying the bathroom and grey water waste without trepidation. We’d practically become Canadian in our enthusiasm to spray on the mozzie repellant and sit by the flickering campfire every evening, toasting s’mores (marshmallows).
On our two-week road trip across Canada, Monty the RV had given us the perfect combination of wilderness adventure and a comfortable place to stay. As we dropped Monty off at Cruise Canada Montreal we jarred back into city life again, packing away the memory of the forests and lakes, mountain views and wide open spaces, to take home with us.