Posts Tagged‘canada’

Day 6: Goodbye Canada.

The final days of any trip are always a time of mixed emotion. This is especially true for today as we close the chapter on one part whilst simultaneously opening one anew. It’s also the time where the responsibility for our day to day activities transfer to us fully and, much to my dread, relies on the countless hours I spent planning our travel all those months ago. It doesn’t matter how many times I check our itinerary that feeling that something is amiss won’t go away until we finally make the journey. With all this in mind we didn’t have much planned for today and even that didn’t get done in the end.

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We started our day at a local breakfast joint, one that was very much reminiscent of all the diners that we’d frequented on our previous trip through America. Our waiter’s tired eyes and frantic demeanour belying what must have been a rough night before. I, foolishly, ordered eggs benedict ala Harry (with bacon, onion and asparagus in the hollandaise) thinking that $15 would net me a decent meal only to be presented with something that could have easily fed a family of 4. I gave it the old college try but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stomach breakfasts like that.

Unfortunately, my poor wife took a very hard turn for the worse right around the middle of breakfast. She has been struggling with something ever since she came back from Indonesia last year, something that seems to flare up at the worst of times. This torpedoed what loose plans we had, taking us back to our hosts home in the hopes to rest up before our flights over to Paris. Thankfully, with the help of some anti-nausea medication, she managed to overcome the worst of it just before we had to start making our way to the airport. I certainly wasn’t looking forward to explaining to airport security that my wife was fine, she just didn’t look it.

Much to my surprise getting through Montreal airport was a breeze, meaning the extra hour we’d allocated to getting through was returned to us. We’d hoped to make use of the American Express lounge which the website had told us was available however our Westpac Black Cards confused the reception staff. I heard them muttering “Centurion” several times over, which our cards are most certainly not, but I think the confusion was enough for them to say they wouldn’t let us in. My wife was very dejected at this prospect; she does quite enjoy the lounges when we can get access to them.

I’ll leave it at that for now, seeing as I’m writing this on the last leg of our flight to Paris and the definition of what constitutes a “day” is somewhat blurry at this point.

Looking at our itinerary I can’t help but feel that I might’ve been better served by cutting one location in favour of adding more days to the rest. Our brief discussions on what we want to do in Paris have highlighted the few precious days we’ll actually have to do things, the days that bookend our stay almost wholly dedicated to travel. Of course the places I wanted to stay for a longer duration do have extra time allocated to them, but there are 3 destinations where we really only have 2 days to see what we want to see. Still I’ve often felt I’ve stayed too long in places before so maybe the short time I’ve allocated will be enough.

Day 5: Not All Days.

It’s too easy to get caught up in the idea that days where you do nothing are wasted. This is especially true if you’re wired like me, looking to extract the maximum benefit out of anything you put your time towards. It is a destructive habit and the cause of the need for a “holiday from the holiday” that many experience upon their return. So for days like today, one spent doing nothing much of anything at all, aren’t wasted. Instead they are the time to take stock of what has been, what will be and, if you’re lucky, come to grips with things that may have been troubling you for some time.

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Today we only had the loose idea of going to see a movie, tossing up between Finding Dory (my wife’s vote) and Independence Day: Resurgence (our hosts vote). We landed on the latter, although honestly I had no idea what we were seeing until we got there (I was deep in thought, more on why in a sec). Since our slumber saw us rise rather late in the day our breakfast was enough to tide us over for the movie’s duration, the popcorn left for the other patron’s enjoyment.

The movie itself was enjoyable if highly predictable. It’s something of a touchstone for my generation, being one of the first “big” movies many of us would’ve been old enough to remember seeing in some detail. It does a good job of paying homage to the past but, unfortunately, makes the unforgivable mistake of loudly crying sequel at the end. I know Hollywood isn’t exactly renowned for taking risks with new IP but dredging up a 20 year old movie and setting it up for unlimited sequels feels like a new kind of low, if that’s even possible.

I’ll still probably watch them though. I feel kind of dirty for typing that.

My wife wanted to indulge in the poutine that Canada is famous for whilst we were here but her lactose intolerance (even with the assistance of lactese tablets) was getting the better of her. So instead we went to a local burger house called Bistro Burger Town and saddled ourselves up for a very late lunch. My lunch of a smokey BBQ burger and chips was fantastic, washed down by the Boreale Rousse beer that I had become fond of over the past few days. Afterwards we made our way back home making a quick pit stop for supplies before settling into a few TV episodes before calling it a night.

I realized today where that feeling of “wanting it to be over” was coming from. Holidays give you time to think on a scale that cannot be matched, allowing all those thoughts that you push to one side to surface anew. Couple that with a lack of any form of routine and you’ve got a recipe for a weird kind of anxiety that, in my case, manifests itself in a desire for it all to be over. This feeling does go away when the holiday finishes and I return to the order of my normal life, but that doesn’t mean the things that cause it in the first place are going away.

Indeed I’ve realized that since this is my first long period of breaking away from routine in 6 years I’ve got a lot of pent up thinking to do. I’m lucky enough to have most of the larger issues already sorted in my life but there are still some fundamentals I think need to be addressed. Funnily enough some of them concern this very blog itself, something that’s been an ongoing presence in my life for the better part of 8 years. Thinking about them a bit more I realize all of them are about change, where it will lead me and whether or not I want to be the agent of it.

Come to think of it, I think our honeymoon on Turtle Island might be to blame for all this.

Although I never posted them (and I get the feeling I should now, although I think they’re at home unfortunately) I did actually blog the majority of the honeymoon whilst we were on Turtle Island. For the first half of the trip the posts were much like this, recounting the events for posterity and a little waffle at the end, however about halfway through they changed dramatically. I remember having the most vivid dreams, all in series, that seemed to draw on numerous aspects of my life from the years before. Whilst I don’t believe there’s any meaning to derive from the dreams themselves I do believe the rapid succession was a kind of unwinding of pent up stress that I was finally able to let go of.

And what would await me at the end of this trip? 6 nights at a resort in Greece, specifically chosen to allow us to unwind at the end of the trip.

It would seem I’ve crafted my own web upon which I’ve become tangled. Thankfully I think it’s a problem that will be easy to address and will ultimately see this holiday mean a lot more than just the memories and pictures we bring back with us.

Day 4: Polar Bear’s Club.

I awoke to a dull light illuminating the room. Erroneously thinking I had woken up before everyone else I decided to grab my phone and check the time: 11:00AM. The dull light wasn’t from the sunrise, no it was because the weather had finally turned and we were greeted by our first overcast day since arriving. We had known this was coming and had planned accordingly, today would be spent lazing around the house and eventually making our way out to the Polar Bear’s Club, a relaxation spot where we’d spend the afternoon to early evening lying in pools, sweating in saunas and getting the requisite massage that all holidays need.

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The late morning until afternoon was uneventful, spent half watching TV, browsing the usual websites and lazily getting ready to go. I made the mistake of opening up my work email (with all good intentions of shutting it down after I set my out of office message) and reading through the various trials and tribulations that were going on half a world away. Thankfully I resisted the urge to respond to anything, merely marking the vast majority of the 60+ emails as read and leaving the rest for future Dave to solve.

The trip out would take us the better part of 2 hours thanks to some heavy traffic along the way. I thought myself rid of all the jet lag however I was hit with a wave of tiredness I hadn’t yet felt, bringing into question just how well my circadian rhythm had adjusted. It passed quickly after a short nap however although I’d be lying if I said I felt it was completely gone. Shortly afterwards we arrived at our destination, a semi-rural retreat called the Polar Bear’s Club that was promising us a day of relaxation after the mild bedlam of the past few days.

The spa itself is set against a picturesque river, albeit a stones throw away from the main highway. My wife was disappointed to see that some of the renovations had, in her opinion, made the place worse and wished to show me how it was when she was last there. Undeterred we made our way in, got changed and proceeded to make use of the facilities. The warm pools and brisk river were great to jump between, invigorating the muscles and mind. We also spent a little time in the dry sauna that was powered by eucalyptus wood making for a rather intense experience.

The massages were so-so, our masseuse unable to conjure up the requisite strength to penetrate my wife and I’s muscles to our satisfaction. However the wet sauna we went into afterwards made up for that in spades, seeping the heat deep into our bodies. The steam was, again, infused with eucalyptus ensuring that every breath drawn opened up the airways fully. I couldn’t stand more than 5 minutes in there however. The walk to the door was also quite a challenge, the extra height gained from sitting to standing enough to dramatically increase the heat I received.

This was to to be the night where our hosts would cook us their favorite three cheese pasta however we were all drowsy from a long day spent doing nothing. Instead we decided to grab some food and watch something light before retiring. This plan went well until we discovered some mold in some of the sandwiches we had bought, something which the restaurant did make right by us thankfully. With that we bid the night to a close and left our plans open for the next day.

This being my first real holiday in 6 years I had forgotten one of my less-than-desirable habits: wishing that this whole thing would be over. I don’t know what causes it, maybe out of a desire to finish things in as short a time as possible, but I can remember thinking the exact same thing on nearly every holiday I’ve been on. There’s only one cure I’ve found: getting beyond the halfway point. I’m sure sometime tomorrow it’ll finally hit me that I only have 2 days left here and almost a week will be gone from our holiday already but until then there’s still a nagging thought train pushing me to “get this holiday done”.

Whatever it is if it doesn’t abate soon I’ll be treating it with a non-zero amount of gin and other high strength spirits 😉

Day 2: La Ronde.

There’s a scratching noise coming from the corner of our room. I think it’s just the cat, it’s scratching pole is in our room, but it’s too methodical. The noise is rhythmic and not enough to fully rouse me from my slumber. I learn later that it was my wife beavering away at the personal gift she’s made for her friend’s birthday which is tomorrow night. An hour or so later I find the energy to lift myself out of my bed and begin the day, one that will see me touring Montreal’s premier amusement park: La Ronde.

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Our hosts are making us breakfast today, a simple one of coffee, eggs and bacon. Now I’m usually one for eggs, they’ve long been ruined for reasons I can no longer remember, however I’m tempted by some home made hot sauce that had a powerful aroma. Eggs, when accompanied by something with actual taste, are a far more palatable affair. Of course in usual fashion I probably overdid it and paid the price over the course of the day. The rest of the breakfast was delightful however, even the filter coffee which is typically trash in these parts of the world. Once we were done it was a quick trip to La Ronde and revisiting something I hadn’t done in half a dozen years.

The weather is pretty much perfect, although being in the sun with no shade did push it into unbearable territory. Unfortunately we found ourselves in peak season so the park was somewhat packed. However the time spent in lines passed quickly, the conversation flowing around numerous topics whilst we waited for our turn on the ride. We managed to hit all the flagship rides including a large, wooden roller coaster. Unsurprisingly it was exactly how I remembered riding a similar one in Australia, my bones shaken to the core and my adrenaline sent to all time highs.

Our hosts had warned us of one roller coaster, one that had been recently changed to go backwards rather than forwards. This coaster had apparently made both of them quite ill for a period of time, enough so that both of them warned us against riding it. Their warnings were only reinforced by the fact that the lines for this ride, out of the all the rides, were non-existent allowing us to stroll right up and get straight on. The ride itself was great however but our newfound strength and hubris would soon be our downfall.

To cap off the day we boarded one of those typical carnival rides, the ones with the seats on long chains that spin around for a few minutes before sending you back down to the ground. All of us walked away from that feeling rather awful, a simple and uneventful ride able to do more damage than all of the previous combined. This made the walk back to the car a slow one, the nausea only abating once we’d finally found our way back home.

The day was finished with an extremely late dinner at a lakeside restaurant, one that our host had previously worked at. I indulged myself in an old favorite, BBQ chicken wings and a blue cheese burger. Canada might not be America but I’ll be damned if the portions aren’t the same. We once again began the slow waddle back to the car to end our night back at home.

All the while this went on I couldn’t help but remember how I felt the previous time I was here. The city of Montreal is a dichotomy of old and new, juxtaposed against each other nearly everywhere you look. Even the new can look old too, with (I’m told) the construction handled by the Montreal Mafioso who do poor work for extraordinary pay. I find it interesting as cities typically gentrify holistically, sections being upheaved and renewed in one fell swoop rather than in isolation. But this is just the view of an outsider, I have no reference as to why these things are they way they are.

Day 1: So Many Planes.

The alarm goes off but I’m already awake. It’s going to be our first big trip in 6 years and my mind is churning through all the things it doesn’t need to. The anxiety that’s been building up over the past couple months, anxiety born out of a fear of actually taking some time off work, is wrecking all sorts of havoc on me. The text message at 4:30AM saying our flight has been delayed doesn’t help but it quickly turns out to be nothing. We board our plane at the crack of dawn and jet off into the sunset, the first step on a 3 plane and 24 hour trip that will see us land in Montreal, Canada.

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Had it not been for a work trip to Singapore earlier in the year this would be my first international trip in quite some time. Before then such travel was simply par for the course and I had developed numerous habits that helped make each trip that much easier. Those habits were long gone now, my knowledge of airports up heaved by the rapid change they’ve all undergone over the years I’ve been absent. Once I boarded our Air Canada flight to Vancouver however all the worry quickly melted away to be quickly replaced by the drudgery that is long haul cattle class travel.

The flights were uneventful, filled with average food, surprisingly decent wine and fitful attempts at trying to get some sleep. It seems that being able to sleep on planes is one of those useful habits that has slipped by the wayside as I only managed a couple broken hours over the entire day I just spent in planes. The shining star however is the Kindle Paperwhite that I picked up before I left, stacked to the brim with enough eBooks to last me for the entire 5 week long trip. I’ve found myself reading a lot more than I would have otherwise, something I’m sure many of my friends would be delighted to hear.

We arrived in Canada to the usual fanfare of tired people waiting in lines. Our hosts (one of which is my wife’s best friend and the whole reason we’re in this country) were caught up in the catacombs that is Montreal’s airport car park. They found their way to us eventually and we were quickly off to her new house to while away the rest of the day.

The trip there was an interesting mix of nostalgia and wanderlust. There were so many places that I recognised from our previous trip: the hotel we stayed in, the Tim Horton’s that we drunkenly stumbled into at 2AM for doughnut holes and the supermarkets we frequented to get snacks for movies we watched of a night time. The weather here is beautiful but I’m told it won’t last past the weekend. Thankfully we’ll be able to cram in all the cool outdoor things before the weather turns and then spend the rest of the time resting up before we depart to our next destination.

It’s strange thinking back to the last time I was here. I was a completely different person back then and now I’ll be experiencing the same thing again in a completely new way. I guess this is the first stage of me taking stock of everything, something which I think is a core part of what a holiday is regardless of the destination. Tomorrow we’re going to La Ronde, the largest amusement park in Montreal, and after my experience with Disneyland all those years ago I’m very much looking forward to it,

A Day in Montreal’s Clouds.

Our last day in Montreal began like any other with a tortured first hour spent in bed fighting off the morning daylight with pillows over our heads. We were determined to make the most of this day however and eventually dragged ourselves out a whole hour earlier than we usually manage. Instead of trying to find another place for breakfast we decided to hit up the hotel’s in house restaurant, a chain that was apparently started by Celine Dion. The food there was quite adequate considering the price and just under an hour later we were on our way to our first destination, Montreal’s Olympic park.

I was mostly interested in this thing as it was a marvel of engineering and architecture but also because it would provide a pretty nice view of the entire city of Montreal. The weather was predicted to clear up around midday but by the time we arrived it was still very overcast. Thankfully though there was no rain in sight so the olympic tower stood out like a sore thumb, a giant amongst the rather subdued surroundings.

It was almost impressive as the disrepair the building has fallen into over the 24 years. Any exposed steel was rusting considerably and much of the concrete was beginning to crumble away. Undaunted we bought a ticket to the observation deck and spent all of 30 seconds getting from the bottom to the top. The view from there was quite impressive as was how dated everything was in there. It was relatively untouched down to the pictures of the skyline that labelled everything you could see through the windows. We spent about half an hour there before being done with the place, along with a bunch of other tourists who’d only got there 10 minutes before us. We did take a quick look around the facilities and the olympic pool seemed to be a hive of activity, but the rest of the place was eerily deserted.

After returning to the warmth of our car we made our way to Mount Royal, one of the highest peaks in Montreal and home to a couple of local attractions. After driving around for a while and stopping at one lookout we realised that we had driven past the main area and quickly made our way back there. We first checked out a small house that had a cafe and a souvenir shop (where Rebecca picked up her new friend, Douglas the Moose) before hitting up one of the trails. That took us up to the the chateau that gave us one of the most beautiful views of downtown Montreal we had seen thus far. We weren’t finished though as Mount Royal is also home to a giant illuminated cross that we were both keen to have a gander at.

The site was currently undergoing some upgrades so I couldn’t get right up to it, but it’s basically just a giant radio tower covered in lights. The area it was surrounded by was quite picturesque though, almost completely unspoiled by the hive of human activity that went on around it. We spent another half an hour walking down the track to get back to our car figuring we had time for one more attraction before it was time to meet up for our last dinner with Laura. Really there was only one place to go: Saint Joseph’s Oratory, the largest church in Canada.

Now most of you will know my rather complicated stance on religion, identifying primarily as Atheist but having my own religion that I don’t talk about much since it seems to offend anyone who has even the slightest inclination towards a theistic belief¹. Still I love big buildings and churches are usually amongst the biggest and oldest buildings around. We made our way simply by looking for the top of the church as it towered over every other building that surrounded it, but even that didn’t prepare me for just how big this thing was.

Standing in front of this behemoth of a building I couldn’t help but marvel at how well maintained it was in comparison to so many of the other older buildings I had seen around Montreal. The gardens were perfectly landscaped with sandstone blocks encasing the pathways. The church itself was none too bad either with the exterior barely showing any signs of its age with several places undergoing renovations as we were walking through. Inside it was unlike any other church I’ve been in with long halls and one room with a roof that had to be over 30m high. We wandered around for a good hour and half just soaking in the almost unfathomable splendour that is this church.

Soon after we departed to meet up with Laura for our final dinner. We were to dine at a restaurant called Elixor, a slightly upper class place that had portions to rival its American counterparts. We foolishly ordered an appetizer and when the main course came both of the girls could barely touch their meals. I managed to down most of mine but was hesitant to go much further as Laura had mentioned they had fantastic cheesecake. Since I’m a bit of a sucker for cheesecake (especially a peanut butter one) I ordered up a slice that was quickly devoured by everyone at the table, despite them being “too full” to continue with their dinners. We said our goodbyes as we might not see her before our flight tomorrow and made our way back to our hotel.

Tomorrow we will be jetting off to New York, New York for a week high above Broadway in Times Square. I’ve been told that a week is the minimum required to see a good chunk of this giant metropolis and I’m very much looking forward to soaking up its culture. It will be sad to leave behind this town that I’ve just begun to get the hang of but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited for what awaits me in New York City.

¹I’ve considered writing about this a number of times but never felt like anyone would really be interested in a formalised version of what amounts to my belief system. If you are genuinely interested in hearing about it drop me a line, I might be persuaded to write about it 🙂

Simple Novelties and Social Lubricants.

Even though I’ve only been in this hotel for the past 2 nights it was already beginning to feel so normal to wake up here that it just felt like any other weekend when I opened the curtains. The bright light flooded the room revealing a bright and sunny day with the overcast clouds of the past couple days banished to the far reaches of the horizon. Still Canada’s fast approaching winter made sure that any heat gained from the sun was quickly swept away by a crisp westerly wind leaving us just a little warmer than the day before. It wouldn’t matter too much today though since we were going to downtown Montreal to do some shopping and to soak in a bit of the local culture.

After driving around looking for parking we finally found a place that wasn’t too far from Laura’s old university. She regaled us with stories of the different places and how they’d changed over the years. One of the buildings we went by was newly built by her old university for the engineering department. Seeing it made my heart soar as it reminded me of how the University of Canberra shut down its engineering department due to lack of interest. If such a magnificent building was only just erected it meant that the engineering profession was alive and well here, and had the funding to go along with it.

As usual our late rise from slumber put our first meal of the day firmly in the lunch category and since we were near Laura’s old haunts we eventually settled on a crepe house that also did all day breakfasts. The food was cheap but surprisingly filling leaving all of us pawing at the remains whilst we finished off our coffee. I have still yet to find a place that does anything resembling the coffee I’m used to (and was spoiled with on my last trip to Melbourne) so downing the rest of the brown liquid was more for the caffeine than anything else. We started to head down towards the main shopping drag which contains Montreal’s Underground City, a large shopping complex with multiple subterranean levels.

We wandered around the place for hours checking out all the local and chain shops that made up this giant underground maze. It had 4 different areas that all had their own distinct architectural style to them, ranging from giant multi-floor underground atriums to densely packed strips of shops where no space had been wasted. The christmas flair had already been brought out as well with ornaments dotting most of the shops and a giant tree in the middle of one of the large atriums festooned with all sorts of mechatronics that puts anything I’ve seen in Australia to shame. After trying to find a few items and failing we decided we should begin making our way to our dinner spot since it was booked for a rather early 6:00pm.

We arrived there with about an hour and a half to spare so we hit up one of the local cafes to burn a bit of that time. Their coffee was the closest thing I’ve had to what I’d call proper coffee since I left Australia over two weeks ago so it was refreshing to say the least. After stealing their wifi for an hour we ducked out to grab a couple bottles of wine before going to grab our seats. Interestingly enough the wine here is extremely cheap with most bottles going for under $20. Couple that with the fact that it’s considered unusual to charge corkage and the number of bottles that adorned our table was close to one per person, a queue for what the rest of the night would entail.

Laura’s friend from work had arranged this dinner for us and she had also brought her husband and another couple along for the night. Usually my innate shyness would take over here and I’d sit quietly at the end of the table, enjoying the food and being happy with just listening. However since we’re strangers in a foreign land the conversation flowed with topics of comparisons between Canada and Australia, with subjects from the trivial to the enthralling. Even though I didn’t have a terrible amount in common with these guys I still felt like we hit it off well, especially considering we kicked on at a local irish pub. There I was introduced to 2 new drinks: the black velvet and the irish car bomb.

The Black Velvet is half a pint of Guinness on top of half a pint of cider. It’s an interesting mix with the smoothness of the Guinness first hitting you with a clean cider aftertaste. The Irish Car Bomb is half a pint of Guinness with a shot of Hennessy and Baileys on the side, drunk in Jaeger Bomb fashion. I’m a bit of a gun when it comes to drinking these sorts of drinks and promptly beat everyone to the bottom. There were a few misfires and with this particular drink there’s really no second chances since the Baileys will curdle very quickly on contact with the Guinness.

It was around midnight when we retired back to our hotel after saying goodbye to our newfound friends. We did make a quick stop at the local McDonalds to get some poutine before heading home, revelling in the novelty of ordering this localised fast food. It had been an exhausting day and we all collapsed on the main bed, dozing off to one of the movies I had brought along with me. Our plans for tomorrow to visit the cultural heart of Montreal, Old Montreal, were far from our minds as we lay down to rest, our bodies thankful for the peace after our day of shenanigans.

Oh Canada, I’m Starting to Like You.

Right until I opened the curtains I would’ve sworn that it was still the middle of the night. Whilst we hadn’t partied particularly hard the night before we’d been lazing around in bed for a good few hours before we made those dreaded first few steps out of our comfortable little abode. It was still overcast and the rain from the previous day put a chill on the wind that seemed to cut through any layer of clothing. The side benefit was that you couldn’t be anything but awake when you were outside making us even more determined to get to our goal: Laura’s favourite place for brunch.

We arrived there not 10 minutes later and instantly I was struck with the similarity to the restaurant we had dined at the night before. There were lines of booths all the way up and down the restaurant with only a smattering of tables to cater to the couples and those dining alone. We were seated and given menus that could’ve been short novels with the selection being extremely vast and ready to cater to any taste. I selected myself some eggs benedict with salmon which also came with a side serve of fruit and house potatoes (mashed with a bit of garlic in them). The girls ordered similar and not 10 minutes later did we have our meals. They were quite large and I struggled to get through most of it, remarking on how over the last 2 weeks my usual rule of “If you pay for it, you gotta eat it all” had been promptly thrown out the window. I just didn’t have the urge to make myself at every meal.

After satisfying ourselves there Laura had some things to attend to so Rebecca and I retired to the hotel room. Whilst we spent the first hour or so trying to find things to do for when Laura goes back to work we soon became listless as our bodies struggled to absorb the massive meal. The next few hours were spent lazily watching the TV, waiting for the message to come through. During brunch Laura had mentioned that I had to try poutine (as any Canadian will suggest) but from this one particular place. I likened it to Chicken Gourmet back in Canberra, it was the place that everyone went after a good night on the piss and needed something to satisfy that early morning hunger. It wasn’t too far from where we were and not a couple minutes after arriving there did I have my prize:

This was the real deal with chips, gravy and cheese curds not just shredded cheese. You can tell curds are fresh by when they squeak against your teeth when you eat them and these were definitely fresh. I think I disappointed Laura though as my reaction was more like “That’s tasty” rather than “OMG I CAN’T BELIEVE I HAVE BEEN MISSING THIS ALL MY LIFE”. I’d definitely eat it again but I’m not about to be as obsessed about it as these Canadians are.

Rebecca and Laura had planned a night out at a spa with one of Laura’s workmates and for me they had planned a bro date with Marc. Since I had hit it off with him last night I wasn’t dreading it like I do with other forced social interactions. I fired off a message to him but didn’t receive a reply. Adding in the country code and sending it again I still got no response. Frustrated I called him and finally got an answer from him. He had responded but it just hadn’t come through, but phone calls seemed to work well enough. After figuring out where the hell I was he came around and picked me up. Tonight we were going to hit up a local micro brewery called Bieres Brasseurs which we had walked past the night before.

The place was packed as a hockey game was on but they still managed to seat us down the back. We ordered our first round of beers (he a wheat beer and I an amber ale) and food from the bilingual waiter and got into a good conversation. The next few hours saw us make our way through the beer menu whilst the crowd roared when the home team scored, ringing what sounded like a massive cow bell. The time went by quickly and after finding out that the girls wouldn’t be joining us after their night at the spa we decided to call it a night with Marc dropping me back off at the hotel.

The night reaffirmed the idea I had the night before that whilst travelling to new places is always interesting it’s the people that really make it worthwhile. We’ll be spending the next few days getting taken around the heart of Montreal and I can’t wait to get more acquainted with it. My walking tour of Miami had been great fun but it still lacked the human element to really bring the place alive, so I’ve got high hopes for doing the same with a local by my side.

Home is Where the Heart is.

A dull light crossed my bed, illuminating the room with a subtle even glow. It wasn’t the blazing column of heat that usually woke me whilst I had been staying down in Florida telling me that something was definitely different about the weather. Looking outside I saw a thick cloud coverage going from horizon to horizon, muting the sun and causing the temperature to drop to more reasonable levels. Almost instinctively I fired up my computer to see what the status was on the Discovery launch: scrubbed until tomorrow just as everyone had predicted. I set about the task of readying myself for the flight out of here since my flight was only 4 hours away and I had a few things that needed to be done.

After filling up the Mustang (which drinks fuel in comparison to the Corvette, strange I know) I returned it to whence it came. It was a decent car but it felt pretty cheap, with all the components being plastic and resembling those of parent’s 1992 Commodore. Still it was a very comfortable and quiet ride so I can’t fault it as a car to get around in, apart from the startling amount of fuel it used to do just about anything. After dropping it off I went to check my bag in so I could go about hunting down some breakfast, thinking that being here so early I would’ve beaten the rush.

That didn’t appear to be so since the line for checkin took 15 minutes clear and the security check point line took well over an hour to get through. Still it was a pretty easy going experience even though the libertarian in me was screaming again about civil liberties and security theatre but my rather blasé mood managed to quell him without too much trouble. Once I was through I settled in with a light breakfast and my novel, blasting through a couple chapters before it was time to board. The flight itself was quite smooth once we were above the cloud tops. I can see why NASA would be concerned about them since they were quite thick and the shuttle could have easily triggered a lightening strike or worse, stripped the heat tiles off the orbiter.

Once I had disembarked from the plane I was struck by how new everything in the Montreal airport looked. It had obviously just been renovated with modern accents adorning every corner and multicoloured LED strips lining the walkway to immigration. The airport itself was a model of efficiency getting nearly half the plane cleared before the baggage even started to arrive on the carousel. After picking up my bags and just simply walking out (I was expecting an Australian-esque customs shake down) I was then greeted with two smiling faces: my wife Rebecca and her best friend ever Laura. I was greeted with a bear huge of epic proportions and I returned in kind, revelling in the human contact I had been missing for so long. I was looking forward to this moment for quite a while and the relief I felt was unimaginable.

Tonight we were to dine at the FireGrill, a Canadian steakhouse chain that apparently put on quite a spread. After navigating our way through the tail end of the rush hour traffic we went and picked up Laura’s boyfriend Marc before starting the walk there. It wouldn’t have been so bad walking there but it was steadily raining the whole time there, drenching those of us who hadn’t come prepared. It made for a few entertaining moments at the start of the night when I was mopping up my hair to avoid dripping water all over the menu, especially when I thought I got it all only to have another drop embarrassingly make its presence known with a loud splat. The food there was delectable and the wine I had selected (a French pinot noir) was a good compliment to the steak I was having. It was particularly pricy though but it was definitely worth it, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone else.

I have been told, in no uncertain terms, that tomorrow I am having a bro date with Marc and possibly one of his work colleagues. Usually this would weird me out since I hate forced social situations but I’ve already taken a shine to Marc and since we share a profession I figure that worst comes to worst we can bitch our respective work places without boring each other to death. I know I’ve had more than a few shared rolleyes when I get my real geek hat on and start talking about the various implications of technology X or why someone is an idiot for not using Powershell.

Thinking back over the day I was still somber from the emotional thunderstorm I put myself through yesterday right up until that first moment when I spotted my wife waving me eagerly over to her. It was a great comfort and the company that she’s been keeping over here in Canada made me feel like this was a home that I had somehow managed to leave behind. Suddenly I realised that I had been missing that key ingredient that really makes travel worthwhile: that human connection. Visiting far away places is all well and good but without that connection to someone else, whether it be a travel partner or those you meet whilst over there, the experiences feel quite insular. I have less than a week here but I can already feel the experiences that I’ll take away from here will be that much richer thanks to the people I’ll be sharing them with.