This month, we put our camper van search woes aside, preferring to celebrate holidays, birthdays, and introductions with family in not one, not two, but three countries!
But first, Bruno and I took a mini-vacation in Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula. We had spent the last two weeks in the Toronto home of our good family friends, the Sharples, and Bruno desperately wanted to get a break from the city.
We headed to the little village of Jordan and parked ourselves at the Shangri-La Resort, a campsite that cost us $38 per night without services! The campsite was full of Airstream campers, the weather was chilly and rainy, and the surrounding area offered little to do but wine-tastings at the region’s many vineyards. The trip gave me a taste of what fall/winter camping in Canada would be like for us if we were to keep Totoyaya, giving me renewed conviction that selling her is the right move.
The reason we were only taking a mini-vacation rather than hitting the road (since we now knew we didn’t want to buy a new vehicle in Canada) was because we hit a minor snag in our travel plans. Since we were headed to New York City to visit my aunt Louise mid-month, Bruno decided it was time to apply online for his US entry code via the VWP. The Visa Waiver Program was created for tourists from a handful of eligible countries (including France) to enter the US for up to 90 days without going through the rigorous B1/B2 US visa application process.
When Bruno began to fill out the short online questionnaire, he saw that, because he’d been to Sudan and Iran, he wouldn’t be eligible for the VWP. He would have to apply for the B1/B2 visa. The application itself takes about three hours and can be filled out online. You pay a hefty $160USD fee. Those things aren’t problems – the problem is that there is a required face-to-face interview at a US embassy or consulate, and ours was scheduled in Toronto for October 17th, the day after we were due to fly to France from NYC!
I tried calling the US consulate in Toronto and the embassy in Ottawa. After several hours and much panic, I finally got through in Montreal, and Bruno was able to change his interview to for the 5th. It would still be a close call (the visa processing generally takes at least one business week after the interview) and there was, of course, the risk his visa would be denied (we had heard of many such instances in traveler circles).
Bruno mounted as best of a dossier as he could to prove that he was just a tourist and had no intention of immigrating or working. Thankfully, the interview went very well, lasting only ten minutes. Bruno was even able to expedite the visa, citing that he wanted to fly to the US the following week. By the 7th we had a 10-year multiple entry B1/B2 visa in Bruno’s passport, meaning that for the next decade he can spend as much as 6 months of the year in the US! A close call, but a great victory! (As an added bonus, the need to be in and around Toronto allowed us to visit the city as tourists on interview and visa pickup day!)
By this point, it was Thanksgiving weekend in Canada and, since we were still around, my parents decided to drive to Toronto and spend the weekend with us all. I hadn’t celebrated Thanksgiving in exactly a decade, so I was thrilled to get to spend it with my family and our wonderful friends. It was the first Thanksgiving for both Bruno and Ara so it was extra fun to share our traditions. I haven’t laughed that hard or been that silly in a long time, and it felt so festive and heart-warming to share this celebration of food and family with those I love the most.
We also took advantage of Thanksgiving Day itself to bring Ara to the countryside outside Toronto to visit the changing colours of the leaves, something she doesn’t see in her home country of Ecuador. It was a beautiful fall day out, so we walked the family dogs, had a picnic next to an apple orchard, and revisiting the old neighbourhood where our family had lived almost a decade prior. I, too, hadn’t experienced fall in a long time so it filled me with nostalgia (the good kind) to partake in these fall activities.
On October 12th, Bruno and I brought Totoyaya to Skypark, a long-term parking near Toronto Pearson International Airport, where we paid $85CAD to keep our car there for 26 days. An incredible deal if you ask me – we’ll see if Totoyaya is there and in one piece when we return!
Then, Bruno and I boarded a flight to New York City and spent four nights with my aunt Louise in Manhattan. My next blog post will be devoted to that incredible trip, so I’m going to refrain from writing about it here.
Just before midnight on October 16th, we boarded another flight from JFK Airport to Paris, spent five hours in the Charles de Gaulle Airport, then boarded another quick flight to Montpellier, in France’s south. We are still here as I post this blog, and will be for a few more days yet. Watch this space for a post about our three weeks in France soon.
This Month’s Statistics
Kilometers Driven: I actually forgot to check the odometer before we parked our vehicle at the long term parking in Toronto, so I’m going to have to estimate here. We couldn’t have done more than 500km, since we only drove within Toronto and to the Niagara Peninsula. Not much overland tourism in October!
Flights taken: Three (Toronto to NYC; NYC to Paris; and Paris to Montpellier). The same will be true in November.
Days in campsites: A measly two… Most of the month was spent either staying with friends, family, or in our own home in France.
Highlights of the Month
The drama surrounding Bruno’s US visa was a major stress for about a week, but in the end we ended up with the gift of a wonderful 10-year multiple entry visa. We are completely conscious of Bruno’s privileged position as a Frenchman. I’m sure the process wouldn’t have been as easy if he’d come from a country in the global south. We are so grateful that Bruno will be able to enter and re-enter the US with minimal hassle over the next few years – the unforeseen highlight of the month.
I’d originally planned to spend Thanksgiving weekend in Chicago, as my 10-year university reunion happened that weekend. I was disappointed not to be able to go, as it was something I’d had on my radar the past year. But I couldn’t have asked for a better alternative to those plans – spending Thanksgiving with family and friends! Highlight #2!
Lastly, getting to spend four days in NYC with Bruno was highlight #3. Louise was a phenomenal and generous host, and being able to use her gorgeous home as a staging area for our daily jaunts around Manhattan was an experience that most will only dream of. Once again, we are extremely aware of our privilege and are eternally grateful to Louise for creating such wonderful lifelong memories for us. I can’t wait to blog about this trip!
Plans for Next Month
On November 6th we fly from France back to Canada, and we’ll immediately head south for the winter. Our plan is to cross into the US and do a quick Route 66 road trip toward New Mexico and Arizona. Winter is coming in Canada, and our experience on the Niagara Peninsula showed us that now is not the time to linger. We’ve been social since August (proof here and here) – now it’s time for Bruno and me to find ourselves again in travel. Things won’t be quite the same as they usually are – we plan to drive the 3000km to Sante Fe with only limited tourism, and once we get there we’ll be devoting our energy to finding a new vehicle – but at least we’ll be overlanding again. We’re both really looking forward to it, and I expect the frequency of blog posts will reflect that excitement!