We are massive sports fans in our house, and there is no sport that we love more than Formula 1 motor racing. Growing up, our Sunday afternoons would revolve around whether it was a race weekend or not, and everything from the time we ate to whether we were going out would be planned around this. The Australian and Japanese Grands Prix were particular favourites because we would be allowed to get up in the middle of the night, the Belgian Grand Prix always promised some fantastic overtaking manoeuvres, and I particularly liked the Canadian Grand Prix because of the sheer speeds on the straights, immediately followed by some serious braking!
Canadian Grand Prix
I have been lucky enough to have visited the British Grand Prix on a couple of occasions, but one of the items on my bucket list to attend at least one foreign Grand Prix, and the one I have at the top of my list is the Canadian Grand Prix. This is only partly because of how much I love the Giles Villeneuve circuit – it is in no small part down to the fact that I also have a massive yearning to visit Montreal.
In an ideal world, we would be able to spend a couple of weeks there, but I think the budget will see us limited to around a week. Three of these days would be taken up at the circuit – experiencing a grand prix is about so much more than the race. The smell of the rubber and the engines, as well as the atmosphere and the waving flags – all of these should be experienced throughout the practice and the qualifying as well as the race day itself!
That would then leave us with a maximum of four days to experience the quaint cobbles and intimate dining venues of Montreal old town, as well as taking in the modern sights of the new side of Canada’s second largest city too. The Notre Dame Basilica has to be one of the things that Montreal is most famous for, so that would have to feature on my list too, along with a trip to the Montreal Botanical Garden.
I would love to take the kids to see the Cirque de Soleil, one of Montreal’s most famous exports, and which lands back in the city every other summer. Of course, that means planning the whole trip very carefully, and keeping everything crossed that the dates that Cirque de Soleil is showing happens to match with the dates of the Canadian Grand Prix!
On the subject of planning – organising the trip of a lifetime like this does need to be done properly. For years, we Brits have been able to travel freely and without restriction in Europe (although that could soon change), but travelling outside of the EU has always required more paperwork and planning than a simple skip across the channel to France.
Because of the long flight time to Canada (over 12 hours, and often including a change in France, Switzerland or Germany), I always thought that when we do go, I would treat myself to the night in an airport hotel before the journey. The journey is long enough as it is, and with it being the trip of a lifetime, I would want to arrive as fresh and stress-free as possible!
The UK is part Canada’s Visa Waver Program, which means that fortunately one of the things that you won’t need to do is spend time and money applying for a visa before you travel. Brits do, however, need to obtain a Canadian eTA (electronic Travel Authorization) before travelling. It is massively important that you do this, as you will be unable to even board a flight to Canada without your eTA confirmation. Obtaining the eTA is not difficult – it’s just a case of completing the application process (at least 3 days before departure) and making sure that you meet the eTA Canada Requirements and you should be good to go!
One top travel tip that I do have for long flights is that it is key that you get some sleep, especially if you’re on a night flight. It seems silly to spend a fortune on your holiday, to find that when you get there, you are too tired to enjoy it! When I travelled to Cyprus recently (5 hours), I took a J-Pillow with me to try to get some shut-eye, and I have to say that it was fantastic and I arrived as fresh as a daisy.
So there you have it – getting to Canada to experience the Grand Prix, the Cirque de Soleil and the Notre Dame Basilica doesn’t have to be all that difficult – it does just take a bit of organising, planning, forethought and most of all, a Canadian eTA before you can even board your flight!