April 4th, 2017.
Despite waking up to the now familiar smell of dog pee, I was armed with things to do and ready to face the day!
My friend Brooke and her husband Darren had given me addresses of a few different places to check out, so I got dressed up to make myself feel better about still being homesick, I wore a pretty dress with a rainbow skirt, sparkly black leggings, high heeled black boots, and a gray toque because lets face it, it’s chilly AF in Montréal in the spring.
Today I was headed to Rue St. Dennis for a bit of $hopping, and to experience a cat cafe for the first time.
As I left though I came to realize the world was ugly crying. Spitting rain and gusting wind every which way until no one was safe. I realized that everyone except me had an umbrella. Coming from Kelowna BC, I barely know what one is for, I haven’t needed one for nearly 10 years. Oh sure we get rain, but not enough to make you think of buying an umbrella.
On this day however, it was the only thing on my mind. As soon as I got off the metro I was in search of a drugstore which I knew was my best bet. I found a cute little turquoise travel umbrella that contracts down.
Back on the street, now I had a second problem. Holding an umbrella means exposing your hands to the elements. No more head down, hands in pocket walking. I didn’t have gloves. I was beginning to see how ill prepared I was for this trip.
That is what shopping days are for! On a street corner I found a Le Chateau that was going out of business and selling everything super cheap. I bought a tank top and a pair of lithe blue gloves that matched my new umbrella. The cashier asked me in french if I wanted to try on the top, I think he didn’t believe I was extra small or something. A bit snooty, that guy. I assured him I was good. To his credit I was wearing my leather jacket which puffs me out a couple inches.
I then headed up the street in search of the cat cafe. It was down a narrow and increasingly alley-esque road that had me questioning google maps. I passed right by it twice before I figured out I was right in front of it. Part of that may have been because it was closed. I looked at the time it was set to open (11am) and noticed I was quite early.
What else to do? I headed back up the street the way I came. I looked around a bit more now that I knew where I was a little better. Then came upon one of my favorite things, a store with a pun-name.
Then I came upon another of my favorite things… A BOOKSTORE!
Renaud-Bray, on St. Dennis, is a massively huge commercial bookstore. I would say about half the store is books, the other half is knick-knacks.
Knick-knacks with french writing are perfect souvenirs. Not only are they the same old crap that you normally get as a souvenir, but they also have a key element of being different. “L’inconnu.” The unknown. It’s mysterious, sexy, and that makes them different and worth having. Maybe, or maybe that’s just me. I go out of my way to buy crap with french writing on it, because I feel more fancy having a soap dispenser that says “Bains de Paris“, even if it did cost the same 7$ as all the other ones on the shelf at Superstore.
Right off the bat I scooped up a couple books in french. A cooking magazine for my chef, poetry and philosophy pour moi, and headed upstairs. I got a cute owl plate for my sister that featured a french play on words, a makeup bag for my grammy, and lots of syrup!
Spent about 100 bucks at that store. No regrets.
fiasco excitement I returned to the Happy Cat Café.
They have a glass anteroom where people leave their umbrellas and shoes. The entrance is right in front of the huge coffee bar/ till. I picked a seat near the window and the wall. The cafe is quite large, and bedecked with all sorts of cat toys. There’s a “catwalk” (Oh now I get it!) that goes across the roof. The TV’s play videos of the cats and pictures of the cats. From the moment I walked in it was clear, this place is for the cats, the humans are just extra. Then again, that might be any place that cats reside.
Honestly this rainy day was the perfect day to cuddle with some felines indoors. I quickly ordered a mocha and watched some other people playing with the cats.
When my mocha arrived I ordered the grilled cheese sandwich with a green salad.
It was all delicious. I got the plain grilled cheese but I wish I had ordered one of the upgraded versions. I of course ordered dessert because; vacation.
I ate half before I remembered to take a picture. It was truly heart-stoppingly decadent.
Each table had a little card with pictures of the cats faces and names, as well as rules. There were quite a lot of rules, but I’m sure that kept the cats their happiest.
Finally it became clear I had been sitting their far past my due time. I was reluctant, however, to face the rain that continued to sputter from the sky. I got a block away, walking while doing my regular check of person to make sure I had everything, before I gasped and said out loud: “Mon sac!” It was one of the first times that those french words jumped into my mouth before I had to think about them, but I didn’t have time to appreciate it, I ran back to the Cafe to grab my bookstore shopping bag that I dropped beside the bench as I was putting on my shoes.
I took my purchases back to ye old pee-palace, and then after a lay down and a phone charge, I left again to meet Brooke at the mall.
I got to the mall probably 2 hours before she was set to get off work. I took this time to buy a bubble tea, and then proceeded to get one of the tapioca balls stuck in my throat and almost die.
I sat hacking up a lung for 10 minutes. Finally a dude at another table gave me a scathing glare that told me quite plainly to go die somewhere else. I got up and walked around, while still clearing my throat constantly. I hate that feeling of food at the back of your throat!
I went into a couple stores, but without any real purchasing intent. Finally I coughed out the stupid bit of tapioca and relaxed.
I met Brooke at the metro, and we took another train together to meet her husband. We all met up at one of the huge ass stations, (the ones where three different lines meet, they are so confusing and I’m glad I had my friends there because otherwise I’d have been turned around for sure!) and took yet another train together to St Dennis street (are you sensing a pattern?).
Our goal? The new Harry Potter bar, The Lockhart, of course! It was actually open, so we were in luck!
The place was packed when we arrived. We got three seats up at the bar, and watched as they made us butterbeer. Spoiler alert, it has roasted marshmallows and whipped cream! It comes in a big pitcher and you use a little ladle to scoop it into a cup. It’s magical.
I got the Jerk Roasted Cauliflower, Brooke got some vegetables and flat bread with dip. The jerk was not spicy, which disappointed me.
Both meals left something to be desired, so we decided to split yet another poutine, this time with coffee braised short rib (yuuuuummm!). It was friggen delicious and honestly probably the second best poutine I’ve ever had, (Mine, a duck poutine with duck gravy and cherry ketchup, will always be my fav 😉 …).
Next and last on the agenda for the night, an escape room, courtesy of my friends!
We walked down to the Gay Village to try Trapped.
We were walked through the rules and the scenario by the girl who greeted us. She was almost bilingual, though needed a few hints on some english words. Luckily I was there to translate. Our backpacks and purses got put in a locker so we would be hands free. We then got “locked” into the Cabin in the Woods.
The clock was counting down, so we raced to begin solving. They had us separated, putting Darren inside the Cabin in chains, Brooke and I outside the Cabin, free. The whole interior was very thorough and not at all hokey. I truly enjoyed myself. I’ve never been very good at these games, but I did manage to pick out a few clues along the way.
After our time was up, we turned out to be about 30% completed… so yeah. It was fun though and I would definitely do one again.
We parted ways once more afterwards, a bit bittersweet.We hadn’t seen each other in 10 years prior to this vacation, (I had never met Darren, and still haven’t met their children,) so it was with a heavy acknowledgment of the passage of time possible before we might meet again, if ever. Still, nice to know that people can remain friends despite time and distance.
Canada really is a tremendously huge country. In this fast media age, it can seem at times that people are always at your fingertips, but when you hug someone you haven’t seen in years, it really brings all that social media crashing down under the weight of reality. Spending time face to face just can’t be matched with texts or Facebook follows. It’s why I drive 8+ hours just to see my family in Alberta at least once a year. Life goes by fast, and 8 hours is an easy trade for a day to spend with someone I love.