July 4th – Pwllheli > Manchester > London > New York
For many people around the world, today is Independence Day and I am celebrating with them, because today is also my Independence Day. Finally, I am setting off on my trip to Canada and the USA, which would have seemed an impossible feat this time last year.
This time last year I was beginning to come to terms with my cancer bombshell:
Appointment after appointment with doctor after doctor.
It was hard to imagine at the time, in the middle of everything, that I would be here, that I would no longer depend on drips and drugs and I would be better. But I am here. I am better and I am sitting in the airport ready to board my flight to New York. New York!
During treatment, I had told myself that I would go travelling as soon as it was possible for me to go. Initially I wanted to visit Thailand but my weak immune system would not have been able to withstand all the injections, so I decided to look for an alternative destination. That’s when I booked a month’s trek around Canada ending in Seattle and then down to California.
Today was the day and I was beyond excited after all the last minute packing. That morning, I was finally able to be excited about the trip for all of two minutes until I found out my flight to London was cancelled. YES, I DID SAY CANCELLED. We then had to rush to Manchester airport in order to catch the earlier flight. Nothing like a little bit of stress to get you in the mood for your first holiday abroad, alone.
But I made the flight and was on my way to London.
I was like a lost lamb, a real country bumpkin trying to manoeuvre my way around Gatwick which in those few hours I was there, seemed like the biggest place on earth.
Panic (or Idiot) must have been written all over my face because an elderly woman told me not to panic and ‘just follow the signs’ as if it was that easy. But it did help me relax a little, so I decided to distract myself by hitting the high end shops that were waaaaay beyond my budget. I was finally called to board the flight and happy to be on my way.
7 hours went by reading, watching on-board films, dosing and eating. There was a lot of eating. All those air hostesses did was feed me.
A 3 course meal. Afternoon Tea – in the night time! I couldn’t believe my luck! Bar snacks. Pink wine. Ice Cream. Coffe. More bar snacks. And I wasn’t even in first class; I’d slum it in Economy any day.
Finally we landed in New York. Immigration; how long are you staying? Why are you here? Have you brought any meats or dairy? Meats or dairy?! I was a little scared to talk. All I wanted to do was get through security, make my way to my hotel and climb into bed.
Have a nice stay ma’m.
Just as I was heading to the luggage carrousel, my name was called over the intercom:
‘Could passenger Davies please go and see a Virgin adviser.’
Oh no. Was it really me? Davies is a common name, I’m sure there were other passenger Davies on the flight.
Of course it was me. Of course it was.
What could have possibly happened? Did I bring too much make up? Did my bag split open, revealing all the underwear I brought with me? A thousand thoughts were rushing through my head.
Low and behold, my bag had been left in London. But I, the Queen of Bad Luck was in New York. Luggage-less. I began crying in the Virgin Customer Assistant’s face. She told me not to worry and that my bag would be on the next flight out of London.
‘You have nothing to worry about.’
I walked out of the airport with only my hand luggage and paid $25 for a taxi (it was only after reaching the hotel that I found there was a free shuttle bus to the hotel – typical.)
That evening, I met one of my fellow trek-mates who was sharing a room with me. I cried in her face as soon as she opened the door. Nothing like first impressions, ey.
July 5th New York > Vermont
The first ‘official’ day of the trek. How better to start a cross-country trek than with a 7 hour drive?
I felt better after speaking to my boyfriend and knowing that my dad and the travel agent were on the case of the missing suitcase. Dad and I made a pact not to tell my mum about the missing case until I got it back, because she would only worry. But thanks to good old Facebook, she found out (diolch Mo!!!) I was going to get my bag back today, somehow.
I met everyone on the trek and after filling out some paperwork, we began the long journey to Vermont. I was far too hot to be stuck on the bus. On the bright side of a really long bus journey, I read a whole book. I don’t really read, but I have a feeling that on this trip I’m going to be the new Matilda.
I made about a thousand phone calls to track my bag and had to spell everything out to them about a thousand times. I don’t know if was my welsh accent or that they were just genuinely clueless but by the sounds of it, my bag wasn’t even found yet, let alone on it’s way to me. I was lucky that I had packed makeup, some toiletries, and a clean pair o knickers in my hand luggage so I was sorted for a day at least (two at a push!)
After a long drive we went to the Ben & Jerry’s factory Museum. It was delicious! Although it was not the best way to start my trek, things were certainly looking up with a cup of cookie dough ice cream in my hand.
July 6th Vermont > Quebec, Canada
This morning, we went on a hike and saw a waterfall. Then we drove.
But I was more excited about the fact that I made my first trip to Walmart! I needed basic stuff like clean underwear and clothes as I still had no luggage – and there was still no sign of it either. Every day someone would say ‘it’s on its way’ and every day the bag wouldn’t arrive. But I was determined not to let it ruin the trip and just get on with it.
It was nice to spend the first night in Canada knowing that I would have clean clothes to wear the following morning.
July 7th Quebec City
Today it rained. A lot. It rained like the deluge was coming.
This was just so typical because I had bought shorts and dresses from Walmart the previous day. For three days solid I had been roasting in 30 degree heat in my black leggings and black top and the second I had clean, airy, summery clothes to wear, it chucked it down. Bloody typical. I had to borrow clothes and shoes from another girl o the trek and enjoyed Quebec City, despite the fact that there was still no sign of my bloody suitcase.
Quebec City is beautiful, even in the rain. It has narrow streets with cute little shops; it reminded me of Caernarfon in North Wales but bigger and better, and with less swearing. We went on a tour of Quebec’s Citadel in the rain and whilst everyone else went off on a ghost tour, I, being a scaredy-cat, gave it a miss and read some more of my book while drying off in a nice, little cafe! What a great first taste of Canada.
July 8th Quebec City > Montreal
We arrived at our hostel, where my bag was supposed to be awaiting but being well versed in the skill of not getting my hopes up, I wasn’t going to be satisfied until I had the bag in my arms.
Alas, the bag wasn’t there so I would go another day in sweaty leggings and sandals.
After settling into the hostel, we left to go on a jet-boat tour of the city.
Waves crashed at every side of the boat, and hit hard against your face until you couldn’t breathe. Everybody was drenched, and the ride went on for such a long time. The guide even gave us shampoo to wash our hair- the waves were that big!!
We then went and did something completely amazing and unforgettable. We went out to a restaurant called ‘Noir’ which is a ‘dining in the dark’ experience. We ordered our food outside, and were guided into a pitch black room by a blind waitress. The whole room was dark through the whole evening so you were eating your meal in the dark. It was a strange sensation having to fumble through a meal in the dark and guide everything towards your mouth. But I was mostly in awe of how the blind waitress was able to work completely at ease – she was incredible.
When I stepped back into the street, it was like I was staring directly into the glare of the sun, but it was only twilight. It took a while for my eyes to adjust.
We then continued on an organised pub crawl that we decided to take into our own hand and headed straight to a nightclub.
We all ended up drinking ourselves into oblivion, danced the night away and I struggled to climb into my bunk – eventually breaking it. Oh well.
July 9th Montreal > Olympic Park
We went on a very hungover and slightly misty tour to the Olympic Park and Montreal.
We walked around the Bio-dome, which is a facility with four different climates under one roof. It was spectacular but I was far too hungover to appreciate it.
We then had some downtime so I decided to regroup with people from home and had a crackled phone-call with my boyfriend with consisted more of asking each other to repeat what the other said than actual conversation.
Coincidentally, my friend was in Montreal for the weekend so I went to meet up with her and it felt amazing to hug her because I was starting to miss home and was sick of wearing the same leggings. Between both of them, I was in high spirits upon my return to the hostel.
But when I did arrive my backpack was awaiting in the hotel reception: I was gleeful. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier. I ripped it open, wanting to parade myself around the hostel in all my glorious clothes like some show pony, but I opted for my pajamas and bed. I could finally relax!
Today we were in Ottwa, the capital city of Canada. A cosmopolitan city on the Ottawa River, it has at its centre Parliament Hill, with grand Victorian architecture and renowned museums such as the glass-and-granite National Gallery, with noted collections from Canadian and Indigenous artists. The park-lined Rideau Canal is filled with boats in summer and ice-skaters in winter.
We walked about being typical tourists and then slept in the sun for a few hours. This camping business is catching up with me.
I couldn’t quite believe that I’d been in Canada for nearly a week already and I’d only had one change of clothes!