Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Toronto to Burlington, Vermont (featuring Walmart, scary driving, and vegan crepes)

When we left Toronto, we did so with the goal of skirting along the bottom of Canada to re-enter the US at the New York State / Vermont border, just south of Montreal. With our overnight stop planned for Burlington in northern Vermont, it was our longest day of driving with an estimated 7 hours in smooth traffic.

When planning our drive the night before, we looked for obvious lunch stops without finding any. And so, we did what any two Australians in North America would do: we searched for Walmart stores along our route. There was one in Kingston, just under 3 hours from Toronto, and so that became our first stopping point.

Walmart. I know, it's not that exciting.

For those of you with Walmart at your door step, I appreciate that this might seem a little odd. However, we don't have Walmart in Australia! We hear about it, and we know it is to be viewed with disdain, but we don't have it.

Now that we've been? We can view it with disdain right along with you. We walked a circuit of the store, we noted the other customers with a detached, observer gaze, we gave the shooting and fishing section a wide birth, and we exited.

We then took a photo of our hire car in the car park because, alas! we hadn't yet photographed it.


If you ever want to hire a car in North America, take note that the above (a Chevrolet Impala) is the smallest car you are likely to get. This is true even if you specifically request a small car, and you specifically request not to be upgraded from a small car to a larger one. It is true that the Impala is not a large car, but when you are used to driving on the left, and to driving a hatchback at that - it is well large enough.

After Kingston's Walmart, we continued down the road towards Montreal. 


Have you been to Montreal? I knew it was bilingual, but I wasn't expecting it to abandon English altogether.


However, it does. With gusto. And the other thing it does? It throws cars at you from all directions. Out of roadwork, out of a maze of freeway roads, out of merging lanes, and sometimes out of thin air. So. many. cars.


People, don't ever drive in Montreal. Especially don't do it in rush hour, after several hours of previous driving, when you are in a semi-unfamiliar car on unfamiliar roads with road signs in a foreign language and many hours of driving still ahead of you.

Just don't.

I made the mistake of volunteering to drive most of our Toronto-Burlington stretch, because I knew I wanted Mr Bite to drive us into Boston and New York. I was a fool. By the time we reached Burlington, at 8.15pm, in darkness, I was exhausted and Mr Bite was edgy after I nearly drove us into a kerb. 

I say again: just don't.

After the above, I was set to abandon all dinner plans, despite my research suggesting that Burlington is treasure trove of vegan-friendly eateries. Fortunately, Mr Bite still had sufficient energy to get us out the door (with him driving) and deliver us to The Skinny Pancake on Burlington's Lake Street. If you visited during the day, the restaurant would overlook Burlington Bay. If you visit at 8.30pm, it overlooks darkness but does have cozy tables and live music playing in a corner.

The Skinny Pancake also has vegan pancakes, of the thin crepe variety, with chickpea batter being one of 6 batter options available. The others are savoury, sweet, 100% whole wheat, cornmeal and gluten free, although I will confess to not knowing the difference between all of them.

I started with the house salad, which consists of mixed salad leaves, cherry tomatoes, seasonal fresh fruit (raspberries!), maple cider vinaigrette and crepe chips. I worked around the chevre cheese, which in my post-driving haze I didn't notice in the menu description. Cheese dodging aside, it was a good salad and allowed me to squeeze some vegetables in before moving on to my main focus.

The Skinny Pancake's house salad.

My main focus, of course, was dessert. Alongside my salad, I ordered a vegan crepe with fresh strawberries, minus the standard whipped cream. With hindsight, I wish I had asked for maple syrup to be added instead of the cream, but that point aside, it was a good crepe and well worth the extra car journey for.

Vegan crepe with fresh strawberries.

Mr Bite started with the Veggie Monster crepe, which consisted of fresh spinach, roasted peppers, caramelized onions, cheddar cheese and pesto. He found it so satisfying that he also finished with it, failing to move on to sweeter options. If I had been in a savoury mood, I could have joined him with the Vegan Monster, which has seitan, spinach, mushrooms, onions and roasted peppers.

The Veggie Monster.
I have no idea where those random dollops of chevre cheese came from.

The next morning, we were able to walk Burlington in daylight, taking in its scenic water views and tree lined streets. The town is built around the University of Vermont, and is an attractive spot if you are ever in the area.

Lake Burlington.

From Burlington, we then drove on to Hanover, New Hampshire, a lunch time stop over on our journey down to Boston. That, however, is a story for another day!




What is the worst driving experience you've had? Despite driving in London and Birmingham in the U.K., I am counting our drive through Montreal as mine!

28 comments:

  1. Burlington looks so picturesque!

    As for the salad, I cannot get over home massive they appear to be in the US/Canada. Forget the Chicago pizzas, and New York bagels, I'm going for the salads ;)

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  2. I've never been to Montreal so of course have never had to navigate my way through it but I hear you loud and clear - when next in Montreal I will hire a cabby. Cheese on a vegan meal has to be a first! I'm looking forward to hearing about how you enjoyed New Hampshire - it seems a very picturesque city to me xx

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    1. Oops, the salad wasn't actually advertised as vegan - in fairness to the restaurant they were entirely honest about the cheese, I was just too dazed to notice ;) And yes, I'm looking forward to writing up New Hampshire as it is beautiful!

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  3. Yay Kingston! You were probably in the ugliest part of the city though unfortunately....

    My roommate is from Burlington and it's such a wonderful city! Those crepes look amazing!

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    1. I thought of you as we went through Kingston! I thought it was where you hailed from but wasn't 100% sure - now I can be :-)

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  4. I am loving your Canada recap... Funny how one wants to try/see things that are just absurd? Although, to be fair, I rather like Walmart's price matching... which I use in the grocery section if I go. ;) Also, funny you mention the french signs in Quebec. I never think twice about it because I know french, but my friend went recently and said the same thing. She was saved by her GPS. ;) Otherwise, did you not stop in Montreal? It is a beautiful city and has some great vegan restos. Next time, perhaps? :)

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    1. We didn't stop in Montreal sadly - next time indeed (without the driving nightmare I hope!). And GPS was absolutely a life saver for us as well :)

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  5. 7 hours ain't too shabby! And I have an uncle in Kingston, headed there this weekend. :) Montreal is worse for traffic than Toronto? I'll have to brace myself for that then. Your crepe looks delicious!

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    1. Well, 7 hours was the predicted smooth driving time, so we were somewhat over that - but you're right, still not too bad! We're pretty good with planning reasonable driving distances. But yes, I'd say Montreal traffic is much worse than Toronto (we found that ok, just with lots of trucks)!

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  6. I hate Wal Mart. Glad you now have the same opinion. My scariest driving experience would probably be New Orleans. Driving there was not a fun experience.

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    1. I will try to stay away from it in a car in that case!

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  7. I was really glad dinner worked out after the walmart and driving - the crepes sounds lovely, esp the salad with crepe chips. I first thought canberra and then I remember driving in Wales in a manual car when I hadn't driven much since getting my licence years before and then having all the backseat drivers advising on me how to get the car up a hill.

    I think you are brave to drive in America on the wrong side of the road - must make it even more tiring to drive - hope the long drives in the NT/Qld gave you a little practice at long drives

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    1. We did get some good practice with long drives, which I think helped this time around - especially because most of our drives were quite short so seemed easy by comparison in that regard. Also, fortunately we didn't have to quibble about whether or not to hire an automatic car because manual cars are pretty much impossible to hire in the US anyway. An unfamiliar manual car on a hill with backseat drivers sounds horrible and I hope I avoid that scenario in my driving life!

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  8. Tee hee - lake Champlain, that Burlington looks out on. There's a really cool chocolate factory I went to once in year 8 right on the Lake, n
    And it was just generally a gorgeous small city. Shame about the driving, and Andy was equally in awe when my dad took us into Walmart.

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    1. I bought chocolate from it!! Not from the factory itself, sadly - I didn't realise it existed until later. But I have Lake Champlain chocolates bought later in the trip and their range seems wonderful :)

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  9. I don't really drive so I can definitely understand your anxieties!! That, for me, would be like driving in New Jersey. Or Boston. Yikes.

    Those crepes look awesome! I'm so impressed with their big veggie crepes!

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    1. I was too! I wish I could have fit one in and the dessert!

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  10. Well, you can view Walmart with hoity-toity disdain if you like, but in somewhere like Cedar City, Utah, it's the only place to get vegan coconut ice cream. So I'm going to be a bit more open-minded. ;)

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    1. I'll thank it for its vegan coconut ice cream, but other than the food section, did you not find it just like an Australian K-Mart, but a bit bigger? I was expecting something more (although in fairness, I don't quite know what!).

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    2. Yeah, I avoid places like K-Mart/Target/malls in general like the plague, so all I've ever looked at is the food section and the guns (hilarious). But hey, you and your man made the Eaton Centre one of your only Toronto sights, so I would've thought you'd be huge fans of Walmart! ;)

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    3. If it had provided vegan muffins and nutella/banana crepes, we would have loved it ;)

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  11. Haha. I loved reading your bit about Walmart. Couldn't agree more! And I loved following along on your travels. This is my first time visiting your blog and I'm glad I found it!

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  12. I never would have imagined driving to be so bad an experience!!! Love your tasty salad though :)

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    1. It made the driving worthwhile ;)

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  13. Sounds exciting and looking forward to the next instalment. I would love to go to Montreal. Is goat cheese on a vegan dish a bit like fish on a vegetarian one?

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    1. It does sound very much like that! However, in fairness to them, the salad wasn't actually advertised as vegan :-)

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