Sunday, August 12, 2018

Stares and Stairs (Montreal and Quebec City)


I left you in Montreal with the promise of the excitement of laundry and relaxation in my next post. Well, I dare not disappoint - I did, indeed, relax and do laundry on Wednesday! I've also done a few other things since then.

As I'd bought a three-day metro pass, I figured I should get some use out of it ($19CAD for five trips - I should have done each trip separately [though, had I done that, I suppose I wouldn't have been driven to use the pass and go downtown on Wednesday to "get my money's worth"]). I had two things I needed to check off my list - I wanted to see a government building and I wanted to write a poem in a library.

On the former, I made my way to the Hotel de Ville and stomped around the grounds a bit before going in. As proof of my innate ability to conjure good luck, I arrived a minute before the infrequent English-language tour, which was led by a very cute and conspiratorially chatty guide (during the "roam around and take pictures" portions we became fast friends). Montreal City Hall itself is very cool and I'd highly recommend checking it out if ever you're in the vicinity (a quick 30 minutes of "oh, that's pretty neat!"). I got advice on food and a route to the library from both the guide and the guard, picked up a few free postcards, and set on my way (which consisted mostly of blankly looking at buildings and things that would have been interesting had my brain not been engaged in the dogged pursuit of the best puns and jokes revolving around the term "Hotel de Ville" - which I recognize is literally "Hall of the City", but, false friends being what they are, I'll never drink a German gift).

My little side-project (bonus goal? cheev?) of writing poetry in a library happened - you can read it on my fiction blog. There was nothing really of note and the poem isn't that great, but hey, if one in a hundred end up working, I suppose that means I'll have to write a hundred.

The normal travel stuff happened over the next few hours - bought some supplies, went to a cafe/bar that had remarkable decor (but no interest elsewise), and cleaned and packed and all that good stuff.

I probably spent too long in the AirBnB on Thursday morning, but whatever - relaxing is good too. I met a couple women from Edmonton who were staying there the same time I was but had, until an hour before I left, never spent more than a moment outside their room while they were home. After a bit, I went to the train station, gave my pass to fellow traveler Daniel, and headed to Quebec City.

There's no exciting tale from the train - it was a quick three-or-so hour jaunt and I read most of the way (I was working on Pratchett's Snuff! and only finished it a few minutes before typing this).

My host, Helene, met me at a nice little brew pub (Korrigane) and I had a decent dinner before we trekked to her place. After dropping my stuff off, we headed back out for a birthday dinner (her birthday had passed a few days prior). I had a delightful time (though, passed at the prospect of a second dinner). A few friends met us there, including one with two yougsters who inspired the somewhat out-of-place poem on my fiction blog. They wanted to head to fireworks and I was about to go with them, but shifted at the last minute - it was a beautiful night and I felt like exploring the city.

By explore the city, I should have said climb a billion steps. If you're not familiar with Quebec City, it's a supremely defensible town with a huge fortress city on top of a huge cliff. No one was going to use the waterways of Canada if whoever owned QC didn't want them to. In any case, I wandered the city, seeing it with my feet as I am wont to do. I had a last beer at another brewpub (Griendel) and hit the hay.

Friday came and I went. Breakfast was a real issue - I hadn't had food since I got off the train and I was getting grumpy. Due to my impatience, I made a twofold mistake: I chose to "try something different" and not go down the streets I'd wandered around the previous day and I'd searched "cafe" on Google. The latter may not seem like a mistake, but I wanted a hearty "I'm going to be burning calories climbing everything" type of breakfast, where it seems most cafes have grab and go quick bites. I finally found a spot that had a breakfast menu posted and ducked inside.

That was a bad choice as far as my mood went. I thought I was grumpy - the waitress had me beat by a mile! Apparently she resented having a customer. As a bonus, I didn't even get breakfast - by the time I arrived they had switched to their lunch menu.

After lunch (a miserable burger) I headed to the library. Not quite topped up on coffee, I ducked into a cafe in the same building as the library and had an absolutely delightful encounter. There were two older women at the counter and, feeling like getting something other than straight coffee, I ordered a machiatto. Apparently my pronunciation (I figured it'd be the same, but whatever) threw them for a loop and the encounter turned into Lucy and Ethel skit. When one would go to get something, the other would ask me a question (or, more accurately, point quizzically) which would then be the basis of some countermand - (this size, not that size! For here, not to-go! &c.). With smiles on everyone's faces, I sat and wrote a couple more poems (guess where to find them).

Quebec's Parliament was next - I was fooled by a building on a map marked Centre de Congres (Convention Center), but it was close enough to the real thing (and, thankfully, on the correct side of even more stairs). After some security hoops, I did a little self-guided tour and picked up some more cheap postcards.

They have a flag rom - I want a flag room!

Seeing a high place, I trekked up to the citadel and learned a little military history. Then back down to the Hotel de Ville of Quebec City, which was entirely disappointing on the inside.

When I had left Parliament earlier, I had spied a very tall building with a UFO on top - as my two-item checklist had now been completed, I indulged the call of the tall and made my way to the spinning restaurant "Ciel!". The view was spectacular, the prices were reasonable (given its touristy-ness), but the company was dreadful - I got in moments before a gaggle of partially mummified women came in, commandeered half the tables in my section, and started barking orders at the server. Luckily I had no other real plans for the day, I just sat and waited for them to go away.

As bonus-bonus plans, I tried to go see a baseball game. Helene (my host) was playing some amateur ball, but I didn't know where, so I was unable to attend. The local team (Les Capitales?) was also playing, but by the time I figured out the required logistics, my legs reminded me of all the stairs (and mini-mountain!) I'd climbed over the past few days. So, I got my pack together for the train to Ottawa, read a bit, then examined the insides of my eyelids.

In a few minutes I'll be getting off the train in Ottawa where my goal is to link up with my host and then hit Parliament (this time of Canada as a whole). Then it's a quick turnaround to head to Toronto.


  1. Okay so first, holy crap there are TOO MANY ways of following you and I am getting more notifications from you at this point than our president, which is weird and somehow not better (i'm not saying it's WORSE).... and 2) somewhere in some post that I am not motivated to track down I saw you mention that you're carrying a large pack... so anyway, can I get a gear list? :D Hope you're having fun.

    1. Ha! Sorry for the myriad of notifications - I fear I don't know what people prefer, so I went with all of them.

      Gear list can definitely happen. Perhaps even tomorrow - it'll be one of my rest days.

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