With the end of April came the end of exams and the end of a fantastic year at McGill. Although it was sad to leave behind all I had known for the previous 8 months, I was eager to begin my travels that I had been planning and dreaming of since this Canadian experience began. At the heart of these dreams has always been road tripping through the Rocky Mountains and we took no time to hang around before embarking.
After a night stopover in the cowboy city of Calgary, we picked up the car and set off on a hefty 6 hour journey to Jasper. This took us along Icefields Parkway, the absolutely stunning road that runs between Banff and Jasper National Parks. Jasper, a small town nestled up in the dramatic mountainous landscape, was beautiful. Easily the most picturesque place I’ve ever been. Whilst in Jasper we hiked, hiked, and hiked again. The highlight was the Valley of the Five Lakes as despite being told all lakes would still be frozen at this time of the year, we discovered one of the lakes to have completely thawed to the picture perfect turquoise colour so famously associated with the Rocky Mountain. A trip back down the Icefield Parkway, with a midway stop at the dramatic Athabasca Glacier, took us to Banff where more hiking ensued, along with well needed relaxation in the thermal springs as well as some more unsuccessful bear spotting.
After a week of the Canadian wilderness, we headed for the west coast to Vancouver. Lined with beaches and surrounded by mountains, it was quite possibly the most beautiful city I’ve ever had the good fortune to visit. After continuing our road trip over the border, we explored Olympic National Park in Washington and spent a few days in Seattle before heading over to Oregon to explore Portland. From here, I flew to Texas with my friend Tim to travel Austin and San Antonio. Despite the uncomfortable humidity of Texas, this was one of my highlights, particularly Austin with its vibrant culture, incredible food and much needed opportunities to cool off and relax in the Barton Springs and Colorado River.
From Texas it was back to Montreal to be reunited with my Mum and sister after 9 months apart. Following on from 3 weeks on the road, it was nice to be back to where I know best and to show my family around the city I have been calling home. In order to give my family a taste of the Canadian wilderness, we opted to stay in a cabin isolated within the peaceful Laurentian Mountains. This was another highlight and a memory my family and I will treasure forever. The final destination of my North America trip was New York. The city that never sleeps did not fail to impress and even with 5 days here I feel I have barely scratched the surface of what this humongous concrete jungle has to offer. However, as amazing as New York is, after my time there it was fair to say I was ready to head back home to the Cheshire countryside, relax and certainly not catch another metro for some time to come!
Words cannot describe how amazing my study abroad experience has been and I’ll try to put this experience to use in my next and final blog, hopefully giving you future exchangees some helpful advice!