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Flight Day

I had the hardest time getting to sleep. I have been thinking about going to Montreal, Quebec since I was in high school. Now, many many years later, I finally get to go. How the hell is this happening? I posted on Facebook that I was feeling about this excited:

http://www.hulu.com/watch/114930/saturday-night-live-surprise

I only got 4 hours of sleep, but it didn’t stop me from springing out of bed, singing in the shower, dancing around while dressing like I was in a musical, and skipping to the MAX station to head off to the airport. Ok, I didn’t really sing, dance and skip, but I had far more energy at 3 in the morning than I think I have ever had in the middle of the night.

Flying Air Canada (Un Agréable Vol)

It was cool to fly Air Canada, just because it began my bilingual experience from the get go. That is the main reason I wanted to go to Montreal, to immerse myself in French and try to use it as much as possible. It was interesting to note that the first couple legs of the flight (first from Portland to Vancouver, BC, then to Ottawa, Ontario) included all instructions in English then in French. The last leg of the flight flying mostly over Quebec had all instructions in French then in English. by the time I landed in Montreal, I learned how to wish anyone a pleasant flight (“Nous vous souhaitons un agréable vol”).

Unaccustomed to Customs

One new experience for me was going through customs via airplane. I totally thought that once my baggage was checked in, all I had to worry about was getting through customs with my handy little processing form. I breezed through the customs review with a few simple questions. I got a little bit of hesitation when I reported that not only did I not know anybody in Montreal, I was just going to vacation there by myself. However, I flashed my bright innocent face and moved along. I noticed that there were baggage carousels, which I thought was funny. I walked right past them to the other check point where a young woman was ready to take my processing form. She glanced at it and said, “So, you’re going to be here 9 days.” I replied, “Yes.” She asked me, “Where’s your bag?” noticing that I had only my small carry on, which clearly didn’t have enough supplies for a long week. She made it quickly clear I needed to get my baggage and bring it through customs myself. After doing so, I turned it back over to the Air Canada people to get it onto my next flight. Crisis averted.

Little Bits of French All Around

While I was laid over in Ottawa, I listened to the flight personnel giving updates and announcements. There was a woman making an announcement about a flight from gate 22. Even though I am sure I am no natural with the French, her accent sounded atrocious.

On the flip side, I got hear a couple of young kids, a sister and brother, fight over their little electronic games. The parents put a stop to it rather quickly, but it was kind of fun while it lasted.

The Last Mile. Cab or Bus?

One thing I felt nervous about was getting from the airport to the hotel. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go by cab or by bus. I printed out directions using both, so I was prepared for both. I had thought I would take a cab, but when I got there, I felt like I should go ahead an try the bus. The thought of spending a ton of money just getting from the airport to the hotel seemed ludicrous, even though I could have easily gotten lost on the bus. Screw it! The bus it is.

Figuring out how to get to my hotel by public transportation wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it might be. They had these great day passes that had some kind of magnetic something. When I got on the bus, I wasn’t sure how to use them, but after the driver told me what to do twice in French, I finally placed the card on the reading pad and got the green light to carry on. Later, I needed to make sure that the pass worked for the Metro as well, because my directions made it seem like I might need to pay more when I got to the station. When I transfered to the Metro, I asked the station attendant in French if I could use the pass for the metro as well. He told me it was good for both.

The Metro was pretty much the same as other metros that I have been on. Fast. Get on. Get off. Transfer to this platform. Get on. Get off. Done. I wasn’t sure which way to go at first when I got out to the street. I knew the correct street, but it took a few minutes to orient myself to which direction was correct.

It’s a Party Outside

As I made my way to the hotel, I realized the street had been blocked off, so cars couldn’t go up and down the gay strip (although they could cross it). There were tons of people out walking around, and I could tell it was very warm that day as well. I quickly checked into my quaint, cozy hotel room just above the street. After taking a few minutes to settle in, I ran back down to check out the scene.

The street was filled with lots of people walking among all the temporary patios that the numerous restaurants and cafés had built thanks to the restricted car access. I was surrounded by conversations, mostly in French but some in English. I wanted to walk the whole strip, which seemed to go on for a few miles, but I was so caught up in the busy and bewildering pace, I decided I just needed to find something to eat and try to calm down. It hit me several times that I was actually in Montreal having a massively excellent time in only about an hour just because I was there.

My First Meal

I ended up eating at Toro Rosso, and I was helped by a very gracious serveuse named Caroline (in French, it’s pronounced care-oh-LEEN). When I got there, I tried to speak in French, but it wasn’t long before she asked me (in French) if I preferred French or English. I told her (in French) that I was better at speaking in English, but I was there to practice speaking in French. She graciously (very very graciously) said she would continue in French and switch to English if I didn’t understand.

I was so excited still, I am sure I said a few things that were very odd. However, I know I got a few things right. Very few, but still. I ended up ordering Crevettes a la Chef (Chef’s Prawns). It was amazingly tasty, especially with the glass of white wine that became a regular beverage while in Montreal. I could have ordered dessert, but I was so stuffed with great food, I didn’t want to do more. Besides, it was time to drink.

Starting to Quiet Down

After I left Toro Rosso, I went to a very neat place that looked a little like an older building that had been renovated on the inside. It was called Café Européen. It had old red brick on the outside with large windows and stylized plaques. It was not very populated, which seemed like a good thing after realizing my French wasn’t so great. I sat down and the serveur got me a nice glass of white wine. We chatted a bit, in English this time, and he told me a little bit about Montreal, after learning that I was there for vacation. He said Quebec is known as a “party province”, which I didn’t understand at first. However, later in the week, I could see what he meant.

After hanging out with the serveur, I went back to my hotel and got myself ready for sleep. I think I finally felt the excitement wearing off. Well, I think it was actually the mix of being up for a full day, flying all day, and drinking a couple glasses of wine. However, I started to wind down, and eventually I got to sleep.

See photos of the day on Picasa

Let mots du jour: amuse-gueule (a savory snack or appetizer), hanches (hips), nous vous souhaitons un agréable vol (we wish you a pleasant flight).

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