We do the craziest things when we are in post-traveling limbo. Last year, we ended up at Tim Horton’s at 5 a.m. because we were jetlagged. This time, we walked to the supermarket even though it was – 10°C and we had quite a few bags to carry to restock the fridge. “I don’t think we will be able to take a taxi back,” I joked. “And street food isn’t an option either.”
The trip back home was tiring. It always is. I sometimes dream of flying door-to-door but it’s not going to happen as long as we live in Ottawa. Our airport sucks: it is barely bigger than a Wal-Mart and it has very few direct international flights. We always have to transfer in the U.S. or in Toronto.
We left Playa Del Carmen under the rain at noon, bused to Cancún and waited for a few hours at the airport. We were lucky to fly Air Canada, which has a nice on-board entertainment system (yes American airlines, you suck!). We got to Toronto Pearson around 9 p.m. and happily jumped the immigration queue because of our connecting flight.
That’s when I realized it’s been ten years that I set foot in Canada.
In February 2002, after our first crazy trip in Latin America, we ended up in Ottawa. We bought the return ticket in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I made Feng a fake student card so that we could buy the cheap flight to Toronto. I was supposed to fly back to Paris but I couldn’t stand the thought of it. From Rio to Paris in a few hours—it was too brutal.
So I followed Feng to Canada.
We had a stopover in Houston, Texas. My first time ever on American soil. I couldn’t stop staring at the cops—there were the biggest meanest-looking and cops I had ever seen. No match to the French police, for sure.
We weren’t exactly prepared for Canada. I wasn’t, obviously—I hadn’t planned to come to Canada in the first place. We had no winter clothes but “Peruvian jackets” (thick wool jackets we had bought in Cuzco, before going to the Macchu Picchu) and a scarf, bought in Guatemala. Feng had warned me: it was going to be cold. February in Canada, what do you expect?
As soon as we were through immigration, I hurried outside, both scared and eager to experience the famous Canadian cold. I’m not sure what I was expecting—to freeze right there, at the airport door? To turn into an instant snowman?
I breathed in deeply. It felt cold, it felt dry. It smelled of winter, of wooden houses.
I loved it, even though I usually don’t like the cold.
It was unusually chilly that day for Toronto and temperatures were in the – 20°C. But I didn’t complain. We walked downtown Toronto, headed to Chapters (“heaven,” I proclaimed) and had a burger in a sports bar later. Canada was nice, I thought. Cold but comfortable.
This time, when I walked out, I remember my first time there ten years ago. This time, the night we arrived wasn’t that cold in Toronto—around 5°C I think. But it smelled the same as it did when I first landed, this unique mix of salt, dry air, wood, exhaust and coffee.
We stayed at Pearson for a few hours and finally took a red eye to Ottawa. The plane was late and we only made it home around 2 a.m. It was strange to be in an airport that late. Everything was closed and all the passengers were sleepy, in a hurry to get back home. In a world where a lot of stores open 24/7, airports still close at night. Funny.
You know what are the strangest things of being back home? Scratching my last few mosquito bites, and putting cream on the little sunburn I got the last day in Playa del Carmen—looking back, going topless the last day was not a good idea.
P.S.: Sorry about the blog mess, I had to update my theme and WordPress and I’m working on fixing the last bugs!