You may or may not have noticed that I didn’t put up a Travel Thursday post last week. I was also more behind than usual on my Music Monday post, which held me up on the Thursday one, sorry about that! (Since I know all of you are just dying to read my blog, I apologize for ruining your entire week by not writing one post!)

That said, this post was supposed to be for a contest that ended last week (so yeah, not winning that one) but the theme was “Vacationing close to home.” So yeah, I know I live in Montreal and all, so I do feel a little cheap because of all the options the city gives me, but I’m pretty sure this is fairly original. Read on to see, and feel free to give me feedback in the comments!

This year, budgets are still slim from the economic downturn, and as a result many people are cutting back on vacations. Instead of going to far-away destinations, they are opting to stay close to home – going camping, staying with relatives, etc. In my search for the best vacation close to home, I came upon an interesting site in Parc Mont Royal.

On an overcast Sunday afternoon, I bypassed the Tam-Tams and the first hill to take a stroll deeper into the woods.parc mont royal tight rope walkers The trees were sparse but shady, and as I approached a large clearing, I saw tight-ropes strung from tree to tree, and people practicing circus tricks. I felt like the little boy who sneaked into the Teddy Bears’ Picnic.

I ventured further into the woods, past the first clearing and the circus-folk and into what looked like a dirt arena. To my surprise, contained within this arena were a couple dozen grown men dressed as knights and pirates and villains. Each had some sort of foam weapon and shield, and was decked out in a variety of home-made armor. Some even carried big flag-poles. I sat and watched for a minute as the men pummeled each other. Eventually I discovered their system. There were two teams, one on either side of the arena. As soon as the signal was given, they rushed at each other and started hacking mercilessly with their foam swords. After a minute or so, there were a handful of guys squatting, and a handful left fighting. In another minute, the whole thing was over.

Close by, two men sat under the shade of a tree next to a blanket covered in foam weapons and armor. I walked over to inquire about the game. “So what’s going on here?” I asked of the tall, broad-shouldered man with the flame-red beard, “What are the rules of the game?” He looked a bit taken aback and was reluctant to talk, but eventually he explained that the rules were quite simple: there are weapons for larp at mont royal parkgenerally two teams. At the signal, the two teams rush each other and the team completely eliminated first loses. A blow to the chest or back is fatal, but if you get hit on a limb, you simply have to stop using that limb. Short swords can be used one-handed, but if you have a longsword, you must use two hands – which means that if you lose an arm, you can only use your longsword to block, no longer to strike. The cost for playing this game? “It’s free to play,” my informant explained, “but if you want to rent a weapon, it’s $5. Well, $5 for guys, $3.50 for girls, and $2.50 for kids for the whole day.” Talk about a cheap vacation!

Now, I know this isn’t really a vacation in the traditional sense – there’s no overnight stay in a scenic area or big city. You don’t have people waiting on you hand and foot, and you still have to go home at the end of the day. But, it is a way to “escape from it all” even for just a day. Somewhere deep in the woods of Mont Royal Park, you can be a warrior, a pirate, or just a kid for a whole afternoon. Sounds like a vacation to me!