Montreal, Quebec, Canada | 30 Nov 2021 – 1 Dec 2021
Very first stop on our travel life — Montreal, Canada! Not really sure it should count as a stop — it wasn’t a destination but rather a pass-through — but what the hell, why not? Because we needed to reserve space for the dogs, we booked our flights from Boston to Lisbon over the phone with an agent from TAP Airlines. We were psyched! Only to get an almost immediate call back telling us he was so, so sorry, but the dogs exceeded their weight restrictions on international flights from the U.S.
Before panic had a chance to set in, we started tracking down alternatives. Send the dogs via the TAP cargo (not passenger) line? Nope, turned out to be incredibly expensive. Book on another airline? No one else had a non-stop (blaming this one on winter, during the pandemic). Book passage for all four of us on a transatlantic cruise ship? Unfortunately, the only ship we found that would take dogs was the Queen Mary II, and yup, as you’d expect that option was WAY outside of our budget. Looking back I have no recollection of how we landed there, but somehow we determined that our best option (i.e., cheap direct flight with the dogs on the plane with us, in the hold) was going to be for us to rent a one-way car, drive to Montreal, and then fly to Lisbon from there. You see for some strange reason, TAP Airlines will fly dogs internationally from Canada up to 99 lbs (dog plus crate). However they’ll only fly dog+crate up to 74 lbs from the U.S. Go figure!
A stopover through Canada required that we cross the border, which had just opened up to US travelers. To cross the border, we needed negative COVID PCR tests. Not a problem; we made an appointment at a clinic that guaranteed results within 48 hours and we were good to go. Had a slight panic moment trying to figure out if the USDA International Health Certificates we were getting for the dogs would allow entry through Canada as well as into Europe (turns out my vet is not accredited in Canada), but my vet tracked that info down for us and assured us we were good to go.
So we rented the biggest car we could find (an SUV), stowed the dog crates with our hiking packs in the cargo area, the dogs and our daypacks in the backseat, and we were off to the even more frozen north … all so we could end up somewhere in the southern sun.
We drove north into the night, arriving at our crappy Canadian motel room just before they locked up the registration desk (10 pm). We had enough time in the morning before check-out for a quick trip to Walmart for compression bags and a coffee, then a frenzied repack and a ditch of even more stuff in the hotel trash (even with the compression bags we couldn’t fit everything into the packs).
Then we had all afternoon before we needed to be at the airport for a quick COVID antigen test and dog check-in. So what did we do? Hit up a local brewpub, of course! Kahnawake Brewing Co. is actually on an Indian Reservation, not in the city of Montreal, but it was near the airport and they had beer. What more could we want?
How about a thrift store next door? Not that we had room for one single additional anything! (But loved the sign 😊)
After that, somewhere to walk and tire out the dogs before the flight. We found Parc René-Lévesque, (again, right near the airport), and it was way more than we were hoping for. Not only a nice walk for the dogs, but it was beautiful with gorgeous views along the St. Lawrence River. Only wish it’d been 50° warmer!