Retour à Montréal

Monday morning, I was awake early early and ready to get out of Québec City! (No offense, Québec, I truly loved you!)

Honestly I was excited to have people to hang out with again. I was getting lonely and homesick and angsty.

I ran to the Tim Hortins across the highway before heading to the bus stop, and grabbed myself a tea and a doughnut for the ride. Then I trotted the long 10-15 minutes uphill along the highway to the Orleans bus stop.

This ride seemed a lot longer than the first, but before I knew it I was back in ye old Montréal. Everything went downhill from there. First, I found out as my luggage was being unloaded that it had a huge rip on the side of it. I explored the interior and found that nothing was falling out, but thanks to my generous purchasing of clothes, goodies and souvenirs it appeared to be moments from exploding onto the city sidewalk.

I dragged my poor failing luggage to the nearest metro station, but couldn’t find anywhere to purchase a bus ticket. I was getting frustrated walking up and down the street, going into little shops, asking in tired french if they sold metro tickets, and being forever redirected. My one reprieve was that I got my first view of the “Gay Village.” Finally I spied a ticket machine, but had to wrestle with it for several minutes before it finally proffered my three day bus pass.

Now I was super frustrated. I was cursing the earth and sky, begging the next three days to disappear into oblivion so that I could GO HOME!

Sigh. No such luck. I better get moving.

Luckily my new and final Air BnB was right downtown. It was a short and easy metro ride (I was by now totally comfortable with the directions and stop names) to this spot. I found it with ease, but was unhappy to see that the owner had a bunch of complicated and anal directions for me to access their apartment.  When I did finally get in I found that my room was not ready, and I was asked to wait in the living room while he “readied it.” He gave me a bottle of water and left me sitting in mildly uncomfortable silence. Finally after about a half an hour he said I could go in. The room was large, with a huge king size bed, and a desk. It had its own attached half bath, and a nice view of the city.

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On paper it was a great place to end my trip, which is why I had been willing to pay a little more than the others. In reality, the entire place stunk of dog pee, (I never once saw or heard a dog) the owner was constantly there, either in the living room or his bedroom, making me feel very awkward. I never again went into the living room, nor did I once venture into the kitchen or beyond. I used the shower timidly and quickly, trying not to touch more than I had to as it was a bit mildewy. I constantly had my door locked while I was in the room. I tried to be very quiet and respectful, but I still somehow still felt like I was imposing.

Anyhow, that aside, I knew I now had to get out of the house and go purchase a new suitcase. I left my stuff still packed and took the metro once again to the Eaton Centre, the one place I knew I could easily find a suitcase without screwing around.

I ended up screwing around anyways, as the mall is HUGE! 4 levels of shops that stretch as long as I’ve ever seen a mall do (West Edmonton Excluded, but then it really only has 2 levels). I ended up walking in huge ovals for an hour until I came across a suitcase shop. It was obviously overpriced, but I was desperate and didn’t care anymore.

I spied a nifty little rolling red suitcase, which had a semi-hard shell, a combination lock, and a little more space than my current. It was almost 120.00 on sale! Not the worst price but definitely an unexpected added expense on a trip where I was starting to tighten my purse.

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Once I had that I made my way back onto the metro, back to the pee tower, and back into skulky’s lair. If I seem bitter while writing this I think its only the emotions of the time coming out briefly and coloring my perceptions a little darker than they might have been otherwise. I packed my things into my new suitcase, marveling at the newfound space that meant more possible purchases. (tighten the purse-strings, eh?) As I took the old suitcase out the owner saw me and asked if I was leaving, so I had to explain to him that I was just getting rid of the suitcase because it was broken. Was I mistaken, or was that disappointment on his face when he saw that I was staying?

As I walked down the sidewalk I realized I was never going to find an accessible dumpster to throw this piece into. I gave up quite early this time, not really wanting to spend all night looking for a way to throw it out. I covertly left it on an abandoned looking staircase and walked away like nothing had happened.

Brooke and I had plans to meet once again for dinner. I took the metro back to the Eaton Centre to meet with her, and did some more shopping around, not with any real purchases in mind, just with the idea that I could buy things now that I had more space. (See how easy it is to fall into the trap!?) I didn’t end up buying anything except a really crappy fish and chips from a Greek stand. I ate half of it and threw out the rest.

When it came time to meet Brooke again I took the Metro to the meetup point. She and I then waited for Darren while I regaled her with my tales of Québec City. Darren came off an arriving car, and we all took a different car to a far out parking lot where their van was parked. They then drove me 40 minutes out of the city proper to a little smoked meat shack called: Smoke Meat Pete.

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According to them it is the best smoked meat in Montreal, and who am I to argue with the locals, especially when it was indeed fantastically delicious.

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I got the smoked meat sandwich with a side of poutine. Overkill? Maybe. Don’t care. It was friggen delicious! A band was setting up just as we arrived, and started a jam session of some bluesy jazz music. I had a great time once again catching up with my old friend and her husband.

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A picture of the two of us that I took for our moms, who are also friends.

Across the street is apparently the first ever Dairy Queen, complete with a secret menu and looking super tiny and cute. We didn’t go in but it was kind of cool to see.

We drove the long way back to the city and they kindly dropped me off by the metro, with plans to meet up again tomorrow after they got off work, and lots of fun things for me to do in the meantime.

Once I got back to the Cave of Ultimate Awkwardness I downloaded a movie on Netflix and watched it to keep me company until I fell asleep, amongst the mildewy, rainy, noisy Montreal night.

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Dimanche au Québec

April 2nd, 2017

Remember yesterday  when I started to worry about running out of stuff to do?

This was a hard day for me.

I can definitely say without a doubt that this was the day I started to feel homesick. Anyone who knows me knows I am a home-body. As I pointed out in my first blog about my voyage to Québec, This was my first big (more than 5 days) trip in 10 years!

Don’t get me wrong, I love little 3-5 day trips to Vancouver Island, or the Redwood forest, somewhere I can drive to as I have a somewhat crippling fear of flying. Somewhere beautiful and quiet. This trip was exactly the opposite of all those things, which might be why I only do this every 10 years.

The real world is noisy and full of business. My idea of a relaxing vacation is not a hubbub city. Yet here I was, in the capital of Québec, on the 7th day of a 10 day trip. I was lonely, cranky, and tired.

Stubborn as I am, I was still determined to make the most of my last day there. I took the bus downtown again to find myself some eats. The streets were PACKED! The difference between week-days and weekends really astounded me. Most of the shops I was interested in had line ups out the door, (I was craving a crêpe) so I kept walking further and further to try and outrun the swarm. I ended up back in Baguette et Chocolat which I mentioned I had eaten at a couple days previous, and once again I got a delicious meal:

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A beautiful mocha, a melty ham and swiss toasted sandwich, and some maple pie! Miam!

After that I walked outside to the traffic circle I had walked through several times previous, and followed a windy little street down until I saw a museum that interested me.

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Musée de L’Amérique Francophone. I honestly knew very little about how “the frenchies” ended up on this continent, and their history here. This was a great learning opportunity and also a great way to kill some time if you’re ever crazy like me and find yourself bored in VdQ.

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When you first enter you find a small church. It had some very nice, standard old-world architecture and beauty.

After that you walk out the back through a courtyard that leads to the actual museum.

The museum seemed very nice, big and modern. It had two stories and a small “cafeteria” (vending machines and tables). The first room I went to seemed to be works of art mixed with different historical items.

I went upstairs to another area. I have to emphasize how empty this museum was. I saw 3 other people in this whole place, and it was quite sizeable as I mentioned. The reason I have to mention it is, the way the museum was set up, mixed with the eerie emptiness to create a very unique experience, like I was watching history unfold before my own two eyes, walking through it as it happened. With no distractions it was like a vision of a past life. I’ll never forget it.

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This area began the story of the first settlers to Québec from France. On the walls there would be projections that moved, spoke to you.

There was a soundtrack of looped voices whispering in French. It was so surreal, walking down the corridors and feeling like you were about to find Narnia or something.

Above and below are examples of the projections on the walls. The entire exibit was moving settlers, coming to this new, strange world.

After that came more ancient knick-knacks, which I found highly interesting.

And other artifacts of daily “Canadian” life in the late 1800’s:

From a small rebuild lookalike of a post office, to a store, and tools and examples of the kind of lives people lived.

Once I had wound my way through the maze of events and timelines it was time to leave. My last order of business in this museum was to watch a short film, and then I mad my way back through the church:

And out into the real world.

While I was here the three last days I had been trying to figure out how to get out to a “Sugar Shack”. There were a few that could be reached by bus, but none explained if I needed a reservation, or if I could just show up. I ended up taking the bus out to one, and got off the bus at a four way round-about in the middle of nowhere, Quebec.

My GPS chose this moment to stop working correctly. The streets were named in such a way that I couldn’t figure out where to go. I walked around in circles and up each road for about 5 minutes trying to decipher the little moving circle in relation to the end-point dot. It kept stalling, or sliding to a different place. I was lost!

After a good half an hour of wandering and swearing, I decided to give up. I was now more lonely, more cranky, and moe tired than ever. I ordered an UBER to come pick me up and I sat on the sidewalk and waited for what seemed like an eternity.

Finally I was able to get home, take a long bath and go to bed. I was going back to Montreal in the morning, so in my head I knew I was going  to see my friend again tomorrow, and at least that would take care of one of my three moods. The others would hopefully dissipate, and let me rest for 8 hours in this strange and wonderful city.

Lyss.

 

Aquarium du Québec

Saturday, April 1st 2017

My third day in Ville de Quebec (VdQ) was slow and leisurely. This was the day I started to worry I’d run out of things to do. I’d all ready seen downtown (yesterday), the only other thing I wanted to see was a Cabane à Sucre, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to do that! (Do you just show up at one? Do you have to book it ahead of time? I was very confused as to the rules regarding sugar shacks!)

I still had an Aquarium to see though, so I was safe for at least one more day.

I had a simple breakfast of leftover bacon and eggs from the pasta carbonara ingredients of the night previous, then I google mapped my bus route to the aquarium. This is one of my favorite features of Google Maps: if you put in a destination, then change your form of transport from car to bus, it will show bus routes and times to get you there! This saved me a LOT of wasted translating time on the Québec bus websites.

I had to walk across the bridge to get to the bus, all in all the transport took me about 45 minutes including waiting for the bus. Like I said, leisurely. I didn’t take this trip in lieu of a relaxing vacation, and I made a point of stopping to smell the metaphorical roses. (the literal roses probably don’t bud until July there?!)

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As you can see by the background of the sign, the weather wasn’t very conducive to rose-growing. It was a brisk -3 degrees in the sun, but not too windy, thanks to my new scarf from Village des Valeurs! Very conducive to getting back indoors, which I did with gusto after paying a small entrance fee.

I can tell that this aquarium would be much nicer to visit in the summer or fall. For one thing you would get to see the cool insect festival that was advertised above, but not set to open until a month after I left. For another, a good half the aquarium has outdoor features, such as a seal tank where you get to watch them dance and swim and I assume do tricks. There was also a polar bear which I avoided for political reasons (cruelty to animals) and an owl hanging out in a lonely cage, who I would have walked right by if he hadn’t alerted me to his presence with a jump-inducing “HOOT”.

Very few people were walking outdoors, but the indoor features were very active with young families.

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As you enter a coin-filled waterfall greets you, crossed by planked bridges in a kind of pirate bay theme. The road naturally leads you to the educational tunnels. The first one is dedicated to fresh water life:

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Or “soft water” as they call it in french.

Of course they also had plenty of exhibits of fishes, floating around, looking angry.

They focused mainly on species found locally.

Then in the next corridor they lead on to ocean life. I love seeing representations of humans to scale with other animals on earth, such as this one with a human and whales:

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I love ocean life because its so VARIED and BIZARRE!

In the hall between exhibits, looking down on the artfully hung metallic fish.

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And then on to more cool life forms:

They had some creatures in shallow pools so people could PET them, as seen above. *shudder*.

The octopus was cool, but I felt bad for him. Octopi are highly intelligent, and he knows he’s in captivity. It makes me sad to see highly developed animals in cages, as I alluded to earlier with the polar bear. Fish are pretty simple as creatures go, but octopi have been shown to be able to plan, and figure out solutions to problems.

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The interior of the building had what looked like a tall silo. Inside the top floor was a huge circular room with a giant pool in the middle overlooking a plastic tube with people walking through it, looking back up at you!

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The bottom floor was of course, the tube. I love the dense feeling of walking through underwater tubes, so quiet and heavy.

Just as I was passing down a corridor with old scuba gear on display, my sister sent me this meme, without knowing what I was doing. I sent her back the picture of the scuba suit above and it blew her mind!

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She and I have some kind of mental telepathy I swear!

After the tube I was pretty much done with this part of the aquarium. I checked out the cafeteria, but it had nothing of real interest to me. I felt like being waited on, so I went back outdoors to check out the rest of the aquarium.

There was a donut food truck on site, which was very tempting, but I knew I needed real food and again I still wanted to sit somewhere. The aquarium has a real full restaurant as well, but it looked closed so I didn’t check it out.

I went to the other building which is closer to the entrance. It was mainly dark and featured full length glass exhibits of jellyfish.

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It was so cool to just stand there in the near-dark and watch the thousands of jellyfish throb rhythmically like blood cells in a heart.

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After the jellyfish there were a few extra exhibits like sting-ray petting, and these weirdos.

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I was now done with the aquarium, having perused it for nearly 3 hours. I looked up the time of the next bus, and saw that I had just long enough to check out the souvenirs, and buy a couple!

The bus dropped me off at the same place I had boarded, and I crossed the street to the strip where I had found a liquor store and supermarket the previous day. There was a small restaurant nestled in the strip called “La Cohue” or “the crowd”.20170401_135817_HDR.jpg

It was nearly empty besides me. I was promptly served coffee and orange juice, as well as one of those weird yogurt shooters that every restaurant in Québec give you for some reason.

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As you can see I slopped my parfait everywhere before I managed to take a photo…

Also I just realized that parfait is french for perfect, and in retrospect this is the perfect way to have yogurt!

For lunch I ordered a crispy leg of duck with hashbrowns and a side salad. I ate most of it, because being french is all about stuffing your face, right?

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I walked lazily home, to take yet another bath and plan my evening.

It was saturday night after all. Earlier I had purchased a trip advisor pub crawl, so at 8:30 pm I headed to the bus so I could meet the “crawlers” at the pub at 9.

The problem was, apparently this pub has been shut down for some time now. As I stood outside in the minus 10 degree evening angrily calling trip advisor and everyone else I could think to blame, I received an email telling me “the trip had been cancelled, and I received an email earlier today saying as much”. Well excuse me, but if I had received this email why would I be standing out in the cold like a moron?!

I’m all for partying my face off in another province when the occasion arises, but I’m not going to just randomly go to bars and find people to hang with… (ok I did this twice already on this trip but WHO is counting?) I was excited about the pub crawl because it is made (or so it said on the description) for people like me, travelers who want a fun night in Quebec without the whole being drunk alone in a random city.

Sooooo I took the long UBER ride home (my first time using Uber by the way!) and went to bed. Kind of an anti-climactic ending to such an action-packed day, but I did get a good french conversation in with the driver, and I got to see Québec city by night, and it’s très très belle.

Lyss.

 

Ville de Québec, Centre-Ville

March 31st, the sounds of my “roommate/host” getting ready woke me. I lay there and began my french tradition of listening for him to leave before I got up.

Quiet at last. I took a comfortable, normal person shower, (one where you stand outside and wait for the water to get hot BEFORE you enter!) and then prepared for my day.

Before my trip, I had asked my aforementioned Québec born friend, Robin, what the best places to visit in VdQ were. He had given me a neat little list, and I intended to follow it. I looked up the locations and decided to start with the Musée de la Civilisation.

I googled the route, and then escorted myself 5 minutes from the house to the bus stop. The buses were very easy to navigate in VdQ, compared to Montreal where they are basically a supplement to the Metro. Not necessarily difficult, but still not as reliable.

It was at least a 40 minute bus ride downtown from where I was in St. Foy, so that gave me lots of time to chill out and people watch. One of the stops was the Université de Québec, and seeing the students pour in and out was very entertaining. Some were even speaking english, to my delight.

Unfortunately, this bus ride also featured the worst encounter with a french person of my entire trip. A man came up to where I was sitting, and sat beside me. He then began to speak rapid french to me. I understood one or two words. I began to panic as he handed me a business card. I told him I was on vacation here in Québec, he kind of looked at me funny and then walked away. Then as he was talking to another girl he pointed at me and started making fun of my accent and laughing. That really pissed me off, I was not looking for a conversation with you, BUDDY.

So it made me feel slightly better when I got off the bus 2 minutes later, to crumple up his card and throw it in the garbage. This is an inside joke between my coworker and I, PS, I am a cook. Often at work when I am wrapping the breakfast wrap or the taco in the tinfoil, one sharp corner of the crispy tortilla will tear the foil, and make it unwrap-able. At this point I will pull off the foil, crumple it up, and throw it in the garbage! Lindsey noticed me doing this and started watching me when I did wraps, just for the chance of seeing my little display of aggression, which to her was apparently HILARIOUS! So we began a joke, anything in our lives that frustrates us, the other will say “crumple it up and THROW IT IN THE GARBAGE! It works pretty well with all of life’s paper-based problems.

Once off the bus I had to catch ANOTHER bus to get to the Museum, which is right down on the St. Lawrence waterfront. While waiting for the bus, I was joined by two women with a gaggle of enfants on tethers. It was quite cute, the little leashed french children pulling every which way while the women chatted boredly over top two strollers with four babies each. When the bus arrived they motioned me to board first, and then began the process of corralling the children on after me.

10 minutes later I arrived in front of the museum. There was a breezy chill coming off the river that resulted in me running towards the Museum, rather than the usual slack jawed staring while walking touristic-ly that I had been doing in Montreal.

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Inside the museum was very open and spacious. Off to the two sides and upstairs were different areas to explore. I paid for my pass and dropped my coat off at the coat check.

I first headed upstairs. They had an exposé on “Cats and Dogs” which was very cute and educational.

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They inserted many interactional tools to teach people about the two animals. Here, for example, is a half wheel they had built to mimic the height that cats can jump.

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You were meant to try and jump and hit the highest button you could. I was able to reach the 2,17 mark. So, not a cat obviously.

Here is another example, a poster of the height of various species of dogs that people could measure themselves against:

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I am about 160 cm,

for reference!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then a chart that absolutely astounded me:

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The speed at which two cats could reproduce into 20,736: 4 years!! Mind blowing. SPAY AND NEUTER YOUR PETS, PEOPLE!

After this display I went next door.

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This one was a series of rooms, in each one was supposed to be a key that you could find, with clues also hidden all around. I opted out of playing the game, as around 25 school aged children were going through and milling about like ants.

The sky was my favorite room, it was like a little observatory, with a telescope,

Through which you could watch a slide featuring various celestial bodies.

There was also a pile of pillows and string lights in front of a projected screen of our visible starscape, with a voice that named and talked about different constellations while they lit up one by one on the screen.

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After dodging rampant children and discovering the wonders of the universe I had worked up an appetite. I went to the cafeteria to get lunch. I was unprepared, however, for the level of food that they served. This was my FAVORITE of all the meals I had throughout my 10 days in Quebec.

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My god, I am drooling just looking at it! The soup was very unique, a duck broth, clearly cooked for a long time and very flavorful, duck meat, pulled, but not dry.  The vegetables within were clearly cooked to order, thinly julienned, and crispy to the bite. It was such a perfect balance of fresh and depth that I hope one day to replicate. The chocolate “avalanche” was basically a ramped-up chocolate croissant, with little crunchy chocolate pieces floating in creamy melted chocolate, which paired perfectly with my mocha latte.

After lunch I went to explore the other end of the museum. First up was an exposition on the history of several different indigenous populations of Canada.

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I took several pictures of the different groups they had, and the tools specific to those groups.

As I reached the halfway point of the exhibit I was approached by a french lady who clearly worked for the museum and told me I wasn’t allowed to take photos here. I said “désole”, and put away my phone. Also in my panic I addressed her as informal “tu” instead of formal “vous” which may or may not have insulted her a bit. Hopefully not!

The next exhibit was on nanotechnology:

This exhibit had a very cool interactive feature, first you chose a duck from what looked like a giant vending machine. You pushed a button and a rubber duck was assigned to you, then you took it to another machine where it registered you, and gave you a random name.

All around the exhibit were different machines that had philosophical questions regarding nanotechnology. There were four answers to each, and you could place your duck over the answer which most closely reflected the answer you would give.

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At the end it tabulated your results into a graph to show where you stood in relationship to the general public. On the wall as you entered was a giant electronic graph that showed the overall results of the study. It was quite interesting.

Me & my BFF Iron man, nbd. Also terminator.

Different examples of nanotechnology that exist in our lives.

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Stained glass is NANOTECHNOLOGY? Cool.

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Even the insect and animal world employ nano-particles in their existence!

Different microscopes throughout history.

Finally I was out of exhibits. I went to gift shop to buy a few cool things, and then grabbed my coat and once again braced myself against the icy cold Québec printemps.

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The streets were very steeply slanted this close to the river. Here is a picture that shows the difference!

I walked around the corner from the Museum and found L’escalier Casse-Cou (break-neck stairs!)

View from the top, (left) and bottom, (right) of the stairs.

They weren’t THAT steep but I’m guessing they get pretty ICY in the winter months which might attribute to the name.

The stairs led into a narrow shopping district with storefronts that might have been up to 100 years old or more. It was pedestrian only traffic. Most of the shops were empty besides the cashier when I entered.

I circled through again and found the entrance to the “Funicular”.

It’s basically a glass elevator set at a very steep (45°) angle. For 3.00$ (as of March 2017) You could ride it one way.

Pictures of the St. Lawrence skyline as seen from the Funicular.

Once you arrive at the top you get a beautiful view from the Dufferin Terrace, set in front of Le Château Frontenac.

This is a very cold, windy area. Or at least it was when I was there. So I sought refuge in a coffee shop with precious wifi.

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At Baguette et Chocolat I got a mocha latte, a slice of maple pie, and a seat right in front of the huge storefront window, perfect for people watching!

Finally, tired and full of sugar, I made my way back to the bus stop. When I got there I was able to take a cool photo of the funicular in the distance.

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When I got back to the apartment an hour later I took a much needed bath to relax and de-stress. Patrice was not home, so I decided to go out again for dinner.

I was craving nachos, so I googled a place to get nachos nearby. I settled on a pub near the University called “Shack” 

Here I was greeted by a friendly server and seated between a mid-30’s couple and three “bros”. I sat and quietly ate as I people watched again. Finally when the couple dude’s wife went to the washroom he started speaking to me. I found out he spoke english fairly well, but was Quebec born. His wife was from New Brunswick. They were friendly and patient with my terrible french. After they left a one-man band started to set up, so that was my cue to leave.

At the bus ride home my electronic bus ticket failed for some reason, but the bus driver took pity on my poor tourist self and let me on anyways. I was able to make it back in one peice, back onto the quiet Rue, back into my comfy, borrowed bed, back… to sleep!

 

 

 

De Montréal, jusqu’à Ville de Québec!

March 30, 2017 was my 3iéme day in Montreal, and the day I had planned to bus to Québec City, via Orléans Express! 

I got up early, as per usual, and ambled my way down the darkened hallway to the kitchen. I saw that someone named “Pascal” had added under my note a small reply, complete with a thank you and an assurance that she would bring my “Poulet au beurre” to work. As I was reading it, a girl that I had not met yet came into the kitchen with a towel over her hair.

“Bonjour!”

“Bonne Matin!”

I spent about 30 minutes talking with this woman, before I finally asked her name, and realized that “Pascal” is a girls name! (and a very popular one!) She spoke french very slowly and clearly for me, and her english was very nice as well. I then bid her good day, as it was time for me to go catch the metro down to the bus station.

I had everything planned out, down to the minute, but I still ended up getting lost downtown and had to ask someone the way, as my gps would not clearly show which way I was walking for some reason. I was still 1/2 hour early for the 10 am bus. (They have hourly buses heading to VdQ and back!)

As I boarded the bus they asked if I was going to St Foy, which confused me, because I wasn’t sure if they were asking because I was on the wrong bus, or some other horrible thing. Turns out there are two bus depos in Québec City. I was indeed going to the one in St. Foy, but I spent half the bus ride freaking out about why.

Once I got on the bus, I tried to figure out what the password for the wifi was by going on their website, by checking my ticket, by checking my confirmation email, all to no avail. Finally I asked the woman seated beside me, and she pointed to a sign on the wall which had clearly posted the wifi password… oops! ‘:D

I then watched out the window as Montréal disappeared into the distance. We passed over an island which housed an amusement park, closed for the season.

At this point I finally ate half of the brownie that Darren & Brooke had bought for me at Juliette & Chocolat. It was AMAZING. Well worth the hype.

I checked the check-in info for my Air B&B on the app. Turns out the apartment was in St. Foy, not far from the St. Foy autobus station. Thank God the past me had had the good sense to find an apartment so close, as to allow current me to walk from the bus station!

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I relaxed and read my book. The bus ride went quite quickly, despite being over 3 hours.

When I arrived in VdQ, I called my dad to check in and just to hear a familiar voice. It was sunny and clear, though a chilly 3 degrees.

I then called my boyfriend Jamey. We chatted as I walked to my new apartment. It was about a 16 minute walk, but it probably took me closer to 20 as I stopped a block away to check my GPS, and also I was wearing horrible high heels that I’m not sure why I packed.

Once I got to the apartment, I set to the fun task of finding the key that the owner had left for me. I took off my shoes (sigh of relief!) as I climbed up and down the 5 stories of apartments, 2 per floor. It was a very cool set-up, with each apartment having access to two staircases, one in the front and one in the back. I won’t reveal where he left the key, but I did happily find it, (after he texted me a picture of its location!) and got into the building.

The house was beautifully decorated, and clean. Suspiciously so, for a bachelor.

But I quickly realized why:

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In the bedroom, he had one feature wall which was painted back, and being used as a chalkboard. Very cool!

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And, to my sweet relief, a full sized tub, Which meant no more shower of horror.

It was now around 2pm. I hadn’t eaten anything except half a brownie. I was in the mood for some POUTINE!!!!

I first walked (oh why didn’t I change my damn shoes?!) West about 2 hundred miles. In reality it was more like 15 minutes along a highway. No wait that’s not the funny part. The funny part is, I spied a “Village des Valeurs” (Value Village) across the highway, but the highway was behind a chain link fence and two huge snowy ditches, with no way to cross other than a bridge that was a 20 foot climb up a steep snowy hill. I went the long way and circled around back to the road that lead up to the highway, but instead of crossing the bridge, I thought for some reason that I was all ready far enough and climbed down the suicide hill that was covered in snow. In heels.

*Almost died*

*Well almost face planted on cement when I slipped on the last foot of the hill, but it feels the same*

Then turned and realized that Value Village was, yep, right where I left it, STILL ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE HIGHWAY!!!! >:0

Now, out of sheer stubbornness, I walked north instead, the 15 minutes I mentioned earlier, to a strip mall with a Jean Coutu. They did not sell bus tickets but I did find a pencil sharpener for my eyeliner, (after making some hand gestures as I have no idea what “pencil sharpener” is in french!). I went next door to the general store (ps convenience stores in Quebec sell booze!) and bought a bus ticket.

Unfortunately, as I alluded to earlier, my plan to buy one bus ticket in each city did not work. BECAUSE in VdQ the bus tickets are only good for 2 days, NOT THREE. Not only that, spoiler alert, I didn’t even end up taking the bus on my first day in VdQ, so I wasted a whole day.

Now came the even funner part of walking North for half an hour looking for a place to eat. This street was a weird blend of residential, commercial, and road construction. I hobbled into a little place called Ashton which is like the Quebec version of a Harvey’s.

They had poutine though so it was basically heaven.

There was only one other customer in there. I ordered a bacon bbq burger with a side of poutine and a rootbeer in my most worn out and impatient “hangry” french. I have never been so happy about fast food before.

It’s funny though, because later on facebook, I was talking about being in St Foy with my friend Robin, who was actually born there, and he told me to go to Ashton because they have the best poutines! Quelle Chance!

So, having all ready eaten the best poutine in Quebec, I decided to go home. I summoned up all the courage and strength I had received from my fatty treat, and dragged myself home on those heel destroying stilts I love so damn much.

By home I mean the apartment of course, where I promptly changed back into my regular old runners <3. I decided to go buy a scarf, and something to make myself for dinner. My neck is very long and the last day in Montreal had proven to me that Kelowna has made me a wuss when it comes to slight breezes of an arctic nature. I was ready for a quiet night in.

I climbed back up the stupid ice hill, because I am stubborn and didn’t want to walk all the way around again, and then crossed the damn bridge. Once on the other side, I looked for a strategic way to climb down on the other side, but saw no such advantage. I sulkily slunk all the way down the hill in the proper sidewalk fashion and went all the way AROUND the block like a sucker. Once in Value Village I did find a nice blue scarf, as well as a green tank top and a black sweater.

Then I went to the liquor store in the nearby strip mall, because damn it after my ordeal I had earned a drink!

I scoured the entire store and eventually settled on a bottle of red wine.

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At the end of the strip mall was a large supermarket. I then bought some pasta, bacon, eggs, milk, and parmigian cheese.

I went back to the apartment. Patrice had told me he wasn’t planning on being home until at least 10pm, and it was maybe 7 or 8 by now, so I started cooking. I made myself a little penne carbonara, whilst sipping my *delightful* wine and listening to music. It was nice to have a place all to myself. After dinner I ate the rest of the brownie, and then cleaned the kitchen and put it all back to sparkling order.

When Patrice finally arrived he was just as I expected. Super friendly and a bit flamboyant. I made a fast enemy though, when I accidentally called him old.

Ok wait, hear me out though. Because of my poor french skills I had gotten into the habit of saying “oui” to everything people said, and then figuring it out afterwards. This unfortunately backfired when we came to the conversation of our ages. I told him I was 27, he told me he was 38, and Oh he was so *old* (expecting me to say, oh no of course not!)

Instead I said happily, “Oui!”

… oops.

He was pretty peeved. I tried to quickly say “Je veux dire NON!” (I mean, NO!) But of course, it was too late. He went into the next room and started playing his xbox. Then he started snapchatting. I think he was trying to prove a point, but by this time I was too tired and full to care. I said good night and toddled off to bed.

It was a huge, comfortable bed,  (pictured earlier), and being 5 stories above the ground and 2 blocks from the highway or any major road, I had no problem falling deep asleep!

 

Montréal 3, Pouvoir des Fleurs!

Woke up très très early again on March 29th. Once again I lay in my bed as, one by one, les habitants of the air b&b left for work/school/wherever.

Once again I had to deal with this beast.

I spent my sequestered morning studying Les Guides de Montréal, and decided to walk over to the biodome. Yes I said walk. When you look at maps, its funny how close everything looks…

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So I look at that map and think ‘pssh, I can walk that in 20 minutes’.

*Spoiler alert. NOPE.

About halfway into my walk I was hungry and stopped in to “Oeuf & Boeuf”.

PS. Did you know the & symbol is just “et” in cursive, which is french for “and”?!

Anyways,20170329_110034_hdr.jpgI went here, the breakfast was “Denny’s-esque, but served Québecois style, which is to say with baked beans, creton, and some weird fruit smoothie shooter that every place seems to serve.

The menu indicated that the egg dishes were served with: patates rouges rôties,
salade de fruits frais, rôties et café 

A quick google told me that “rôties” is quebec-ese for “toast”.

I spoke well with the server. He was pretty fast, but still offered to change to english when he realized I was struggling with how to order my eggs. Apparently “miroir” is how you say “sunny side-up”. It was very fast and delicious.

Then I continued my trek. The first half hour had been an industrial area, but I was now coming into an area of small shops and restaurants. I finally got to the highway and could see the Olympic stadium in the distance.

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I wanted to go up in the tower, but it was closed. 😦

So I got my biodome ticket. Bless my own heart for having the foresight to go to Montreal in the off season when everything is half price. (Did I mention I had no say in the dates of my vacation? I did? Does my blessing still count?..)

I love Biodomes. My sister took me to the Muttart Conservatory last September, which was awesome, so I was super stoked to have the chance to see the famous “Papillons en Liberté”.

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Be warned. Next comes a PLETHORA of  pretty plant pictures.

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They had a cool little model of the biodome so you could see the fate that awaited you.

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Now I’ll insert some thumbnails to streamline this post, but if you’d like to take a closer look just click on one to open the slideshow! 🙂

In the first room they had a pond built in the center, surrounded by different areas with plant facts. There were two doors that lead down separate wings of the biodome. I wanted to see the butterflies right away, so I followed the convenient “Butterflies this way” sign placed by the north door.

The next room was more “desert”. By which I mean it was themed as a desert, not that it was empty. Though it was, in fact, empty. Other than myself, of course.

 

The next room looked like a Spanish themed yard with a garden walkway and another pond. If you look closely in the middle photo you can see the black plastic curtains that are hiding les PAPILLONS! Are you as excited as I am? Was??

I walked through the curtain and instantly felt light as a feather. A weight had been lifted from my chest. I was 10 again. There were butterflies FREAKIN EVERYWHERE! Flying at my face! Flying around! Chilling out on flowers! Eating fruit slices! It was MADNESS!

Here is a video of my experience:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmKeTK4KVbo&feature=youtu.be

Also here is a fun fact about butterflies:

Did you know that when they go into their chrysalis they actually liquefy down into soup and then rebuild from scratch?? The caterpillar releases enzymes that literally digest its own body.  What’s left inside the chrysalis is a nutrient rich soup from which the butterfly will form!

Not only that, but they actually retain memories of being a caterpillar! Scientists did a study where they trained caterpillars to avoid certain smells, and after the butterfly emerged, it showed aversion to the same smells, while the untrained butterflies had no reaction!

Pretty cool, non?

So now back to boring ol’ flowers.

Actually its mostly just mossy plants and leafy fronds, but you get the idea.

 

The last room was very powerful. After a long winding walk through the most beautiful and life giving vegetation mother earth has to offer, you enter a room which is starkly bare, plain in comparison. The walls have black and white plaques with writing on them, and there are also a few exhibits.

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It was an exhibit on conservation. Because it is, after all, a conservatory.

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Life is so strong, yet so fragile. I think this is why I love biodomes so much. It is a microcosm that allows me to mentally grasp a limited piece of this unimaginably huge diversity in which I am merely a tiny link.

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A tiny link can make a huge impact however.

 

So, my heart in my throat, I left the biodome behind. It was very windy and chilly. I wanted to head home and make my “roommates” dinner as a thank you for having given me the benefit of the doubt. This was my first air bnb rental, I had had no prior references. Yet they accepted me, and trusted me. True, I trusted them in return, but I had read the reviews prior.

I cooked for them a delicious poulet au beurre. Then left them a note thanking them and explaining the food, and ran out the door to catch the bus.

I had a meetup to go to!

 

You see, 3 months before when I was planning this whole trip, I somehow stumbled across a Montreal based french-english learners meetup. I requested to join and was approved. I signed up for 2 meetings, one on each Wednesday of my trip.

On Wednesdays, they meet at a small cafe called “Cafe Imagination.” There is one table for “english learners” and one table for french. I was late because I got lost, of course. They welcomed me and sat me at the french table, where there was lively conversation all about. I shyly introduced myself to the table in french, and they all introduced themselves in turn and began asking me questions.

In the corner by the window one of the “learners” was a fluent, Montreal born frenchie. I know this because when I said “Mont-real” he quickly corrected me “c’est Mon-reeaaall”. Cue eye roll. Seriously this dude was sitting at the french learner table and berating my pronunciation? Get a life. But I smiled and let it go because I actually do have a life and can deal with one idiot. Everyone else was super friendly, and luckily after about 5 minutes another girl joined, and when two more came we all started our own new “girl power” table because the other was too full.

It was one of the highlights of my trip. Meeting so many new people who were all learners like me. I was on the newbie end of the spectrum, but I could follow the conversation much more easily than if it were between “locals.” As it was, I wasn’t even the furthest from my home. There was a woman from Mexico, one from Ghana, and another from Pakistan. It was amazing to sit and listen to these women’s stories of how they got from their various corners of the globe and came to be sitting in Montreal, learning french, just like me.

I felt less alone after this day.

 

 

Montréal, La 2ième Journée.

March 28th. 5 am in Montréal. I’m awake.

It’s 2 am in Kelowna.

Why am I awake…

Despite rising before the sun in either province, I didn’t end up leaving the AirBnB apartment until 10:30 am. I lay there, wide eyed, listening to the sounds of several people getting up, ready for work, and leaving. I unraveled travel maps left on a handy desk beside my bed. I stared, uncomprehendingly,  at the routes of the buses and metros. This is one of the times when you just want things to be in english!

Finally I sneaked out of my room. The house was empty. I took a quick shower. It was one of those horrid showers where you have to get in first and close the door before you can turn it on. 2 minutes of freezing is not worth a cool design in my opinion.

I came back to my room, the world was beckoning me.

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The very loud world outside my window,

 

 

Pictured left, beckoning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I went a block over to the Esso. The gas station did not sell bus tickets, but she sent me to Jean Coutu, a pharmacy across the street. There are Jean Coutu’s everywhere in Quebec, and they quickly became a symbol of comfort and consistency for me as I wound my way across the french side of Canada.

They have a cool ticket that works for buses and Metro’s. For 3 days of unlimited travel it was only 18$ This, I thought, is perfect for my plan of 3 days in Montreal, 3 in VdQ, then 3 more in Montreal again. I’ll explain later why this didn’t actually work out perfectly, but at the time I thought it would be perfect. *SPOILER ALERT*****

So back to the bus stop I went. The passes have electronic chips in them, the buses have electronic readers. You just get on, tap your card, and go. I was fitting in all ready.

I spent a lot of the bus ride staring at my phone. To others I may have looked like a bored everyday traveler, but in reality I was frantically checking google maps to see how many more stops I had before getting off. It was only a 10 minute ride to the metro, but it felt like infinity, there are 10 stops in between, one on each damn block. All in frenchy-french names that each sound the same as the last, or at least the last spelled backwards.

I need not have worried, the last stop was the metro. Everyone got off. Then, a new adventure, my first metro ride ALONE.

*SPOILER ALERT*** I DIDN’T DIE!!!!

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Pictured left: Me not dying.

Also pictured: innocent people whose souls are forever trapped in this photo.

Also: The Montréal Métro, including the side I was supposed to be on to go downtown (Cote-Vertu). I had to ask someone in rambly, awkward french which side to go on. They understood me, yay!

 

 

 

 

 

You may wonder where I was going, the answer will shock and surprise you. Unless I told you this all ready in which case you’re probably yelling “GET-ON-WITH-IT!” Monty Python Style. Where was I going with this? Oh right, to explaining where I was going.

I had asked my Chef if he wanted any souvenirs from Quebec. He said no, but bring him a Joe Beef T-shirt if I go there…

Weird.

But OK. Now I had a mission. Go to Joe Beef. Get a t-shirt. It was my first and only* ambition!

*(other than meeting up with my friend Brooke and her husband later).

I did the same stare-y thing on the metro as I did on the bus. Reading along on my phone as the french intercom robot called out each stop in heartless monotone. This time though I got the added bonus of having mini panic attacks at the vast speed the metro climbed to between each station. Luckily the stations are 1-3 minutes apart. By the time you get to full speed you are slowing down for the next stop.

Shaky-legged, I disembarked the wheeled devil and rose back above ground with the masses.

I followed my phone (I did this a lot!) to Joe Beef. Once there, I went inside and was greeted by a short fat man who instantly made me feel like an idiot. He spoke in english every time I spoke french, then in french when I switched to english. He asked what I wanted not as if he worked at a restaurant where people regularly came to share meals, but as if I were imposing on him merely by existing. He then informed me that they no longer sell t-shirts at the store, try buying them online.

Grr.

At this point I was quite hungry. I started scouting out a place to eat. I passed by a couple little cafes with cool names.

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“Butterfly Wine”

<——————–

 

 

 

 

 

I finally settled on a cool place called “Quoi D’Oeuf”. It’s a play on words from “Quoi De Neuf” which means “what’s new” or “what’s up?” and Oeuf also means egg. Yes I base my choices on how punny the name is.

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I got the special on the board, which reads: Sugar Shack Benny: Egg, Ham, Swiss Cheese, Potatoes and Maple Syrup, served with fruits & smoothie.

It was so delicious I forgot to take a picture of it until half way through, and that’s how I measure how delicious things are. I also got a coffee and an orange juice because I was a little hung over and also because VACATION!

The waiter spoke french to me and was really nice and slow. I can tell when they speak slow on purpose because I can actually understand them. It’s a nice touch.

After brekkie I walked back up the street towards the metro and headed down to the “Marché Atwater” which I had seen earlier on google maps.

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It was a cute little indoor market, close to the river. It had tons of expensive, local made products.

Giant coffee hopper/grinder that was 2 feet taller than me, The bag beside it was up to my waist. Gourmet cakes and pastries at a cafe. Organic Beef, dry aged 30-60 days.  Various organic and local aged cheeses.

Here I bought several gifts for people, including maple syrup, some jam, and some teas.

I sat down at a table inside the market to decide what to do next. I didn’t have to meet Brooke for at least another five hours. I decided to do something to pamper myself. I looked up local spas and booked myself a nearby massage at “Spa Verte”. I then had two hours to kill before my massage. I walked up and down “Rue Notre-Dame Ouest”. It was mostly restaurants, dollar stores, pet stores, little shops and pharmacies. Nothing super touristy but some cool scenery and lots of street art to take in.

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Finally I realized my phone was dying from all the paranoid map-gazing. I googled a library which happened to be kitty-corner to the spa, and about 3 blocks away from the Metro, and strolled over. By now it was starting to rain. I was feeling tired and lazy. I plugged in my phone at the library, checked my email, read a bit, and just sat staring out the window. Finally at quarter to my appointment I headed over to the Green Spa. It was in the 3rd floor of an office building. It was seemingly empty. I sat down in the waiting room, perfumed with the vanilla scent of a diffuser, and filled out the form on the coffee table while I waited to be called in. After about 10 minutes the woman greeted me in English and invited me in.

For the 90$ price tag, the massage was definitely worth it. It was the beginning of a more relaxing take on an active vacation. I realized that just because I wasn’t in the Bahamas didn’t mean I couldn’t kick back a bit. I had come here to learn, but I was doing that just by passively experiencing.

After the massage I hopped back on the metro and went to the station that Brooke told me to meet her at. I still ended up there an hour early, so I walked around downtown a bit. This area was snazzy. Huge towering office buildings, all with an aged feel, yet modern interiors. Mcgill college towered high above,

Banana Republic looked like an old castle,

 

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Even Google was there, loftily peering down.

I found the Eaton Centre, by accident, which is a huge mall that connects to the famous underground city, as well as the metro. It is four stories high and huuuuggge.

I decided to go *shopping*. I went to a couple shops to find a dress for my cousin’s wedding. I did end up finding the perfect one, happily. Then I went to the food court to meet up with my friend whom I hadn’t seen in almost 10 years.

It was like nothing had changed.

We have both had very separate lives, yet semi-kept up with each other via facebook and our mothers, who are also friends. We had a lot of catching up to do though, and we chatted non-stop as we headed over to her husbands work to pick him up. The three of us went out for dinner at 3 Brasseurs, which is a chain brew-house pub in Montreal. I had a pulled pork sandwich which I regrettably did not remember to take a picture of, but it came with coleslaw and it was delicious.

Afterwards, we strolled down to Juliette & Chocolate, a small patisserie which is also a Montreal based chain. They both recommended (and ate) the salted caramel brownie. I opted for the Lemon Meringue Petite Pot, as I was very stuffed from dinner. Afterwards Darren (Brooke’s husband) sneaked up to pay the bill and also buy me a brownie to take home! Too sweet!~ (literally and figuratively.)

They walked me back to the metro so that I could take it back to the bus stop, and then bus home, where everyone seemed to be in bed. The night was quiet, and I quickly drifted off into my sugar coma.

first day

à Montreal

January, 2017, I was just 4 months past a bad break-up, sad, bored, restless…

and facing March.

Every year it seems the month or two before my birthday are the hardest months. If anything bad happens, its always in these months. May is like a rebirth for me, a new spring, every year. Fresh and strong, but first I have to survive those ugly months.

In March I also have 2 weeks vacation. The Chef closes down the restaurant for his wife’s birthday (March 9th, which I remember because of his joke, how his wife taught him to remember her birthday: count your fingers, then cut one off!) and usually they go somewhere warm.

March 2017. 10 years since my last real vacation. In March 2007 I went to France and Italy for 10 days on a school trip. It was a trip of a lifetime.

Also know, I had just begun to take french classes at Le Centre Culturel Francophone, as a supplement to the French I had learned from Duolingo (a phone and web based learning app), and the french I was now reading (Harry Potter, what CAN’T you teach me!?).

This class was set to end March 20th, 5 days before our vacation began.

So in a flash of shower-time brilliance, I decided this was a sign that was time for me to take another real vacation, and go back to Paris.

I excitedly told my family my plans. They seemed happy, and worried, as I expected. I tried to ease their fears with the false confidence that was ballooning out of my eagerness, which quickly dissipated as my classes took root. The teacher heard I was going to Paris, and decided to tell me stories of gypsies and pick-pocketing orphans, of police who give bad advice to lost travelers just for a laugh.

Paris… it’s over-rated.

It’s expensive…

Been there, done that.

Now I’m the person who is too cool for Paris, (not too scared, no really I’m NOT,) and yet still ready for a crazy get-away and to speak and listen to french…

Bonjour… à Montreal!

Three months flew by. I was busy planning, learning. I moved into a new apartment. I catered an 100 person charity event at a church. I was introduced to an amazing person, by a friend, and we were now dating. I was so unready for a vacation now it wasn’t even funny.

Its so good that I planned this 3 months earlier, because now I had to do it. Each time I tried to talk myself out of it, tried to get my family to talk me out of it, it backfired into ‘well I’ve all ready spent the money and invested…I all ready told people about it and how can I now explain why I’m not only not going to PARIS but also not Montreal?!’

Everything fell into place. My new boyfriend offered to watch my new place for me. I was going to Montreal whether I wanted to, or not. (Spoiler alert, I really did want to, I just didn’t know it yet~!)

March 27, 2017.

Two perfect flights and I landed in Montreal. Alone. Afraid. Excited. Surrounded by frenchies. After 27 years of white white Drayon Valley, and somehow whiter Kelowna, multiculturalism slaps you in the face. In a good way.  I had seen the world before, but when your alone it seems so much more invasive. I didn’t have my little bubble of catholic schoolchildren to shield me. I was just one lone spec of white froth on the deep sea of faces. I was riding a wave of sheer exhilaration and energy that was being fed back to me from the normal airport hubbub.

I finally got a cab, in broken french I was able to communicate where I was going, even though I had no clue where that was.

We drove past the place twice. Its a tiny little staircase that leads up, in case you missed it. In the pitch dark of 9pm. In a cab driving down a foreign street.

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The two men who greeted me were very friendly and very french.

Dominic, with a Quebecois french accent and an Irish english accent, was fluent in both and very accommodating. He showed me around the place, making sure I was comfortable and fed, (home-made quiche courtesy of his roommate Patrick, a very quiet,  tea and slipper-loving fellow). He taught me a few words in french, (boyfriend is “un chum”, girlfriend is “une blonde”,  I’m vingt-sept years old, not dix-sept as I accidentally told him.) He also introduced me to some good french music.

They sat together like an old couple, watching french news and making fun of the France accent, aka the only one I understood. I decided I wasn’t done scaring myself for the evening. I was going to go out for a walk.

Patrick said, “stay safe!”

I turned around in horror, “C’est dangerous, ou..?”

They both started laughing. Dominic rushed to assure me that the area was very safe.

I walked two quiet city blocks. It was dark. When I came up to the bus stop that Dominic had pointed out to me from the deck I crossed the street and began to head back. One block later I found a tiny bar. There were 5 people inside including the bartender. She asked what I wanted. I said MGD. Turns out after 5 bad translations that they don’t have MGD, so I got an Alexander Keiths. Now that everyone in the bar knew I was a “moitie anglais” I got lots of attention. I ended up speaking broken french to Joel, who spoke broken English to me. I learned more words, (“sous” means drunk), which areas of Montreal are “french”, and which are “english”, and that the Montreal accent is quite different than the rest of Quebec, who apparently have terrible accents! (I started to worry about Quebec City, my next destination. If this is the soft accent…)

Finally at midnight I floated back to my little “chambre” to collapse in awe and rearrange my thoughts to form one collaborative expression of joy. I was in Montreal. The surreal realization gripped me and I knew I was going to not only survive, but thrive. I went to sleep feeling content and ready.

My room, view from window, bed.