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Sep. 3rd, 2011

Pensive

Leaving My Love

Flight day back was nearly eventless. It started to rain at 9:45 am, shortly after I got back to my hotel from having my last breakfast at Parc la Fontaine. Even though I had plenty of time before my flight, I decided it would like sitting idly at the airport more than sitting idly in a hotel room watching it rain.

First Plane Back Home

When I got on the first plane, I was amazed at the First Class setup. People in First Class had individual seating with low rise walls that made each seat seem like a one person waterless hot tub. I briefly considered whether I could ask to upgrade my seat. Of course, the rest of the plane had far more seating then I had been used to so far. Usually, I end up on a plane with only a single aisle splitting the rows of seats. This airbus was industrial size with two aisles separating the rows of seats.

On the way coming to Montreal, I didn't watch any movies or shows on their in flight TV's. However, I decided to go for it on my way leaving. I watched Hanna, which I had already seen but enjoyed enough to watch again. The movie was interrupted right when the character Marissa Wiegler (played by Cate Blanchett) says "Fuck Eric Heller".

Security, Customs and Timing

When I transfered in Toronto, I was chosen for a body scan. It was not nearly as glamorous as I had hoped. Also, I brought a souvenir flask through in my bag, which one guy thought had liquid in it. However, a second security guy double checked that I didn't have any liquid in it and let it pass. I was getting late for my transfer, with the first flight delayed by 40 minutes. I started to panic as I waited in the customs line with plenty of people ahead of me and only 20 minutes to get to my gate. Luckily, there was a woman letting people in my particular predicament get short cuts to catch flights. I made it through with only a few minutes to spare.

I definitely need to make it back to Montreal as soon as possible, but for now I will just have to reminisce about it as one of the best vacations I have ever taken.

See a description of Hanna the move on IMDB

Les mots du jour: rince bouche (mouthwash), tuer par balle (kill by gun/bullet).


Pensive

Hot, Sweet and Sad

My last full day in Montreal and it is the hottest day (also very humid). The temperature is 29 Celsius (about 84 Farenheit). Today is another day of relaxation and enjoyment. 

As I left my hotel, I noticed a lot of taxis along the cross streets. This is definitely the party zone on the weekends, or at least that's how the taxi drivers have been conditioned to behave. Shortly after walking around (only about 15 minutes) I realize I am already either perspiring or collecting water on my skin from the air. You decide.

Going Old Again

I decided to return to Old Montreal to enjoy the scenery once again. I took a few more pictures, but not many more. I also went browsing and shopping for souvenirs. There were several shops along Old Town, many of which had the same kinds of things in them: witty shirts, post cards, stuffed animals, caps, shot glasses, and many other types of souvenirs.

Park on the Peninsula

I remembered seeing the park out in the water on the end of a peninsula. When I was here before, I was going to try to get to the peninsula coming from Old Town to find the base of the peninsula, but I was so tired and it seemed so far, I opted to wait and perhaps try another route. I made my way to the nearest Metro station and went back over to the Île de Sainte-Hélène. From there, I was able to cross a bridge to get to the park. Along the way, I also saw a guy putting around on a large old bright orange old school moped.

It was le Parc de la Cité du Havre. As I walked out along the peninsula, I saw hexagonal bench set ups and bicycle pathways. Along the edges of the peninsula, people stood on thin and short rock walkways and fished off of them. There were a few people there with dogs, and I saw a few guys getting ready for wind surfing (or something close to it). I rested at the park for a while, but I was exhausted. I went back to the Village and rested in my room for a short while.

The Last Supper

That night, I decided to go to dinner at my first dinner spot, Toro Roso. I enjoyed the restaurant, but it made me feel a little more sad, like I was saying goodbye to everyone in a silent ritualistic way. Then, I went to the Latin Quarter to visit Juliet et Chocolat where I got a chocolate strawberry smoothie. OMG! I want the recipe, so I can make this every morning for breakfast.

Juliet et Chocolat

I took my chocolate strawberry smoothie and headed back to old town to get some pictures of the fountains at night. Old Town was CRAZY busy at night, with people everywhere. In the central plaza, there was a fire twirler wowing the crowd with a few flaming tricks and witty quips. I also went to a few nearby places where I remembered there being a few more lighted fountains.

Not Feeling So Gay

When I get back to the Village, I see people dressed in all kinds of kink wear, as it is Fetish weekend at L'Olympia. I never went to the club to figure out what they were doing, but it was interesting, like a sex themed Halloween party. Sadness sank into my body, so I decided to do what any repressed gay American boy would do. Revisit the strip club and have another lap dance. Obviously, I wasn't too exhausted from the day.

View the site for Juliet et Chocolat
See the Olympia Theater site

See the photos from the day

Les mots du jour: techniquement (technically), l'oeufrier (the "eggery"), avis (notice), fête du travail (labor day), boulette de viande (beef patty), laitue (lettuce), soda mousse (cream soda), don suggéré (suggested donation)

Sep. 2nd, 2011

Coy

Pretty Things

Today, I dediced to take it easy and just go back to my favorite spots so far.
Back to School
I wanted to visit McGill campus again, as it reminded me so of University of Washington. I also took the metro to get there, as I had decided to stop traveling the hard way. When I got there, there was a labor protest going on at the front entrance to the main campus drive and in some other key areas along the sides of the campus. I thought it interesting to see, just because I don't think of Canada as having labor disputes. I am guessing that's just because I don't watch Canadian news.
I made it past the crowds and walked a little around campus. Then, I found a nice grassy area to sit on with a large tree to lean against. I glanced around occasionally to see what was going on. There was a line up of frat boys helping to unload some truck and pile cases of beer (presumably) in a tent like pavilion. A few had their shirts off, so I think I stared more than glanced.
Back to Sainte Hélène
I returned to the Village to have lunch, which happened to be my last big helping of poutine. I went around to do a little more media shopping, mostly music and DVDs. I didn't buy anything, but I did note a few titles, which I plan to order via Amazon. Afterward, the day was still so beautiful that I wanted to go back to a park. I took the metro out to île de sainte hélène and parc jean drapeau, where I relaxed for an hour or so. I found a small lake area and reclined while listening to music. There were a few people who had on bathing suits and decided to play in the lake (sort of). I didn't think that was allowed, but I didn't see anyone official looking haul them away.
Getting Them Young
After I got back from the parc, I walked around a bit in the village. As I trotted down the strip with renewed energy, I noticed a small boy (maybe 3 or 4 years old) with his mom. He pointed over to one of the male strip clubs whose outside had a lot of different, bright colored flashing neon lights that I am sure made it seem to a young boy that it was a video arcade or similarly young kid's playground. He asked his mom if they could go in, to which mother kindly replied that they wouldn't be able to. I smiled to myself.
Lets mots du jour: parce que nous le meritons aussi (because we deserve it also), format regulier (regular size), grand format (big size), brisée (broken), barbe à papa (cotton candy), haute tension (high pressure), le manque de (the lack of), ca me fait capoter (it makes me go crazy), je capote (I am freaking out), se duper (to be fooled/deceive oneself), paniquer (to freak out), agaçant (irritating)

Sep. 1st, 2011

Silly

Like Old Times

The day started rather inauspiciously. I awoke with a bug bite on the neck. As if being sun burnt weren't enough. Merde! Oh well, it was still a nice day with plenty to do. After getting myself ready and walking down to my designated breakfast café, I realized that delivery trucks were a regular event in the mornings. They came in the mornings, removed the temporary barriers from the ends of the street, lined up, dropped off and then whisked away.

Other events of this particular morning included seeing four cops corner and cuff a man dressed in fatigues and seeing an older businessman walk past me who had a small red smear on the brow of his left eye. I wasn't sure if it was blood. He walked fine, and assuming I would be more of a bother than a help if I tried to talk to him, I just let him carry on about his reddened day. Were these events connected? Perhaps so.

I decided to head down to old town for the morning. Along the way, I saw a couple of raggy men jump into idling traffic and wash a Buick's windshield. The elderly couple inside gave them some money, and the men went off. Yes, Montreal is a larger city.

Seeing Old Town

Old town was utterly stunning. The old stone and brick buildings were so beautiful. Some of the streets were still made of very worn cobblestone, while other streets had a newer if similar design. For a few moments, I could imagine what it would have looked like centuries ago. There was also a one block long market square in the heart of old town, which was undoubtedly where people used to come to gossip, peruse, ogle and perhaps even buy. Today, it is flanked by restaurants and populated by a few merchant kiosks. I enjoyed the atmosphere for a very short while, but there was much more to see.

As I walked along, I saw  old school horse drawn carriages as well as the more modern amphitour. Old town, also called old port, had a river running along it with a few waterside features. I went out along the northern most quai with the steeple like clock  tower at the end. There was an elevated "boardwalk" that came out from a waterway pouring down over some terracing and into the river (or so it seemed). There was also a large pond in the middle of a small park, and the pond had two large fountain bursts shooting upward some 18 feet (or 6 meters).

As I walked about old town, I smelled marijuana. I realized I had smelled it several times while I was in Montreal. Also, I am very certain there is one popular cologne that all the men in Montreal wear. Yes. If a man wore cologne in Montreal, it was this one particular fragrance.

Well, I wanted to go to an island that I could see from the riverside, so I went back to the Village to refuel with some poutine and set back out. I had to go by metro, as it was the only practical way to get there.

Île Ste Hélène and Parc Jean Drapeau

As I stood waiting in the metro station, I heard someone yelling out something I couldn't make out right away. After a little while, and repeated yells, I figured out there was a woman saying "hallelujah". No one seemed to be paying her any mind. Once the rubber wheeled train arrived, we all boarded and headed on our...faaah! The train lurched to a halt nearly throwing everyone standing to the floor and giving everyone seated whiplash. It was about a minute before we were on our merry (if jolted) way.

The island was the very next stop along the way, so it wasn't long before I was out of the station, which opened up on a courtyard with a snack bar on one side and an outdoor swimming pool on the other. There was many a nice spot to hang out, beside a small lake, at the island edge overlooking the river, along tree shaded paths and so on. I walked around it all, shot photos and paused to take it all in. It was Parc Jean Drapeau.

Biosphere

There were a few specific "attractions" on the island. There was the biosphere, not to be confused with the biodome. Although I chose not to go inside, the outside looked like the Epcot sphere stripped bare of paneling to reveal only the spherical skeleton. It apparently used to be enclosed, but a fire burned away the shell, or at least enough of it that it is completely open now. It also was shown in a 1970s Battlestar Galactica episode "Greetings from Earth". It is a monument to environmentalism (I think).

Lévis Tower and Stewart Museum

The island had a couple of older military buildings on it. There was the Lévis Tower (Tour de Lévis) that did a pretty good job of towering. As it happened, the woman from the metro station that had yelled out several times stood in the closed doorway and waved a pink flag with yellow cross while holding a bible. It made me think about how people can immerse themselves in their beliefs so strongly.

I walked on and found the Stewart Museum (Musée Stewart) made from part of a fort building constructed in 1820. Interestingly, the fort was made in case the U.S. decided to invade Canada. I didn't really feel like taking a tour of military history, but it was interesting to see it from the outside. The canon at the front didn't really inspire me either, although the closed gun ports in the fort walls were interesting. I think I want a brick house with gun ports and towers with ramparts. They're such under appreciated architectural features.

Devil Dog

A disturbing incident of note about my visit to the island was a shrieking dog. Yes, that's right. I heard this sound that I thought was similar to a very upset child. However, as I came into better view of the auditory spectacle, I saw a dog held on a leash. I was so shocked, I wasn't sure what was really going on for several seconds. I finally realized this small dog (not sure of the breed) was shrieking.

La Ronde (Six Flags)

On the North end of the island was a six flags amusement park called La Ronde. It was closed the day I made it to the island, but I took a peek at it anyway. It seemed to have all the typical rides of a six flags, as well as the typical prices: CAD $44. I thought about returning to it on the coming Saturday, but as I planned to be at an amusement park later in the year, I decided to save my money instead and not go. When I return to Montreal some day, I will be sure to go when the park is open and spend a day there.

Read more about the Biosphere
Visit the Stewart Museum site
Read more about the Lévis Tower
See the Ronde site

Peruse the pictures of the day

Les mots du jour: bassin (pond, pool, tub), vieux-port (old port), balades (tours), croisières (cruises), canette (drink can), sortie d'urgence (emergency exit),  casse-croûte (snacks), déchets (trash, litter), une navette (shuttle service, ferry), débarcadère seulement (drop off only), crème sure (sour cream).

Aug. 31st, 2011

Coy

Higher (and Other) Learning

I wanted to see the other univeristy, McGill, and how it compared to UQAM, the more urban looking campus. First, however, I needed breakfast in my favorite park, Parc la Fontaine.

New Moms Keeping in Shape

While nibbling on my new favorite breakfast, sablé cookies (shortbread) and jus de canneberge (do you remember what "canneberge" means?), I heard something like rhythmic instructions being called out. I turned around in my bench facing the lake and fountain to see several women pushing baby strollers in somewhat synchronized motion. Clearly, these new moms weren't about to let neonatality seize control of their bodies any more than it had to, so they joined in solidarity to struggle toward fitness. It seemed like a cool idea, especially given that they exercised together in the beautiful outdoors.

McGill University: The Green Campus

McGill University was very different than the UQAM. It is more like a lush yard like campus with many grassy fields between several of the buildings. The UQAM was made of more modern architecture, while McGill managed to plant itself in several older buildings that reminded me of my alma mater, University of Washington. McGill wasn't all old buildings. There were a few more modern looking places toward the edges of the campus. It is also situated just below Parc du Mont Royal with the nearby Rue Peel (Peel street) that leads right up to it. adjacent to the U there was also a hospital, also distributed througout several beautifully designed older buildings.

Back to campus, it was a little busier, given that it was the end of summer, but I guess it was only a week before classes were about to start. FYI, they do indeed have labor day on the same day we do. That's wierd. Anyway, it was rush week for the little greeks, and they had their card tables erected and dressed with signs of brotherly as well as sisterly love. In addition to ogling all the young guys on campus, I enjoyed the views of McGill.

Lunchtime Struggles

I went back to the Village to get lunch. I ordered yet more poutine, this time with little pieces of "steak" in it. It was more like hamburger but whatever. While I was munching away so peacefully enjoying the mound of salty fatty delciousness piling in my belly, a bee decided it wanted in on the fun. I occasionally waved it away with more gentle "swatting" as if to say, "go away. There's something else for you to eat somewhere else." It became a slight nuissance, so I tried hitting it a little harder. It wasn't long before another one arrived. I found myself rather irritated and learning how to use the butter knife like a tennis racket, trying to whack the little suckers out of their bee driven minds. I managed to hit one away. It felt like quite an accomplishment, but ultimately it was a draw. I finished my food and let the bees remain. A third one arrive right around that time, and I didn't need to fight them anymore. Bees showed up at afternoon meals a few times when I ate outside at lunch.

Do You Know a Ton about Tonnes?

I noticed a sign that talked about the maximum weight for a truck using "tonnes". I thought that was odd, but I have sinced researched it. Apparently, there is a difference between "tons" and "tonnes", the former referring to our measurement system and the latter referring to the metric tonne.

Egg Heads

It was apparently rush week for some students at the UQAM as well. There was a small group students wearing togas, witch costumes and the like, holding out a carton of eggs. I noticed a few of the students with some kind of messy goo on their foreheads, and I realized they were asking people to smash eggs on some of the students' foreheads. Wierdos!

Mark of the Sun

When I got back to the hotel room, I realized I had burned around the lower part of my neck and on my nose. I felt pretty stupid to have let that happen, since it had been so sunny for several days. I walked to the closest drug store and bought 60 SPF sun block on a stick (a mini deodorant like stick) and a travel bottle of rejuvinating lotion. I rubbed the lotion on all over my face and neck. During the remaining days, I also added a layer of sun block in the mornings.

My First Strip Club and Lap Dance

I was definitely feeling a little frisky. However, I didn't want to go out to the clubs. I felt like it would be a fruitless venture given my poor ability in French. I looked in my handy gay guide to Montreal and found three strip clubs. One, Cabaret JP, was right across from my hotel. The second was Stock Bar a way down the strip and the furthest one away as Campus. Cabaret JP seemed to have the really young boys. I couldn't be sure about that, but it was what I guessed given who kept coming out to smoke right outside and then going back in. Stock Bar seemed to have the muscle men, which was a guess for the same reason. I wasn't sure what to expect in Campus, but I decided it was the one I would try.

When I got in there, I was welcomed by club music and a well sculpted dancer modeling his body for all to see. The stage was fairly large and all the seating was arranged to provide the best view possible no matter where visiting voyeurs chose to sit. I chose a seat a little way from the stage and ended up sipping on some white wine. I viewed several men and was surprised to find out that they not only showed everything but occasionally came out "fully grown". Whoa! We don't have THAT in the U.S. for sure!

It wasn't too long before I realized that this wasn't just any show. One of the guys came over to my table after he had posed and teased on stage, and he started to chat with me. He was very charming, but after a little while he "invited" me to have a private dance with him. I wasn't too shocked out of my mind to agree to it. I won't go into the trivial details, but I certainly had a good time and some sweet dreams later that night.

Visit the McGill website
Visit the UQAM website
Visit the Stock Bar website
See the Campus website

Take a look at the pictures of the day

Let mots du jour: buanderie (laundromat), terrain prive (private property), stationnement (parking), sans-fil (wireless), salade-de-choux (cole slaw), à volonté (on the side. more correctly "at will").

Aug. 30th, 2011

Sassy

A Day of Culture (All Tidy Like)

I found out the night before that Irene had blown up to 90 kmph (56 mph). The plan was to avoid any foul weather, which wasn't really anticipated. It did cloud up a bit, but the forecast was clearly sunny and warm.

Latin Quarter

UQAM (Université de Québec à Montreal) was the city like college campus not far from the Village and bordering the Latin Quarter as well as the Place des Arts. There weren't too many students around, but as the week pressed on, I saw more and more of them. I swung around the campus streets to head up to the Latin Quarter where there were many a shop. The array of restaurants was astounding. Some of the more unique shops were the "capoterie" (or condom shop, so to speak). They actually had condoms rolled out on special condom "manequins" with a well defined rounded end, so shoppers could see texture and color of any brand of condom. They had much more than just that, but I found the display fairly novel.

In terms of food, there was also Juliette & Chocolat, whose menu looked amazingly good. Of course, any restaurant whose every dish has chocolate is going to look very good, period. Other things I noticed were that most restaurants had names in French, including le goût de Corée (Taste of Korea), and le goût de Vietnam. However, there was a Mexican and Cajun restaurant called the Three Amigos (in English) and the Italian restaurants I saw kept their names Italian. I ended up eating a smaller restaurant where I had another kind of poutine, this time with gnocchi as the potato base instead of fries. It was decently done, but not my favorite.

Archambault Musique: The Borders of Montreal

I spent a little time in the Archambault music, videos and games store to see if I could find some good French entertainment, but it was more difficult than I had hoped. I had a very specific set of criteria and sifted through disc after disc checking each one as best I could. The two things that stood out for me were a gay flick called Leather Jacket Love Story and a TV series called Les Invincibles, which seemed interesting on the DVD covers. I also found out that red wine is best around 60 F while white wine is best about 50 F (or so the wine accessories gift kit seemed to suggest).

China Town

China town was a lot like other china towns, except it had a slightly more European feel, with cobblestone streets in several areas and a courtyard area that felt like a marketplace setup, although there weren't a lot of vendors at kiosks or carts. Just outside of China town there were a few other kinds of restaurants, some Japanese, some Korean, but still mostly Chinese. I was surprised that there were more Vietnames or Laotian restuarants, since the French heavily influenced those areas of Southeast Asia.

La Place des Arts: Museums, etc

I made it to the first museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Montreal, which was very nice. I wasn't allowed to take pictures so much, although I did sneak in a few before being told not to. In the pictures for today, there is snapshot of what looks like a black screen with blurry white writing. It was cool, because the writing would rearrange itself in small phrases or single words. It was kind of like Mad Libs. I also liked the photos taken through a kind of reverse fisheye panorama like reflective surface thing (see the pictures).

While I was at the museum, I had an epiphany about art. I now think of art as something that should reach an audience through conceptual originality, emotional impact or asthetic display. Perhaps art should have all three, but after looking at the pieces there, I felt like many of them were about one of these three things. There were two simple pieces, only one of which impacted me. The first was a large square shaped brown canvas. As far as I could tell, that was all there was, and I saw nothing in it nor felt anything from it. I feel like it didn't reach me at all. In contrast, there were two large circles, one with a black center and gray border and the other with a grayish center and black broder. There was a little more "shape" to the gray centered circle, but ultimately they were mostly just opposites, which I felt. The black centered circle felt magnetically seductive yet more frightening, while the gray centered circle felt more hopeful and comforting. It was so simple yet the feelings were noticeable. That was art for me.

Around Downtown

I didn't go very far past the museums, but I did wander a little into the downtown area. There were many cathedrals, restaurants, a few sex shops, clothing stores and on and on. I found a lot of murals in different parts of the town over the last couple of days, but in downtown they tended to take on a more grafitti type of look. All in all, downtown was a lot like any other downtown of any other big city, although with a lot more French speakers walking around. Also, drivers were typically respectful, but not always patient.

Who's That Guy?

After returning to the Village area for dinner, I refreshed myself and then headed to a new restaurant called the Saloon. Right as I approached the constructed patio that was partially out in the street, I realized I recognized someone. It was a pretty nice looking guy, about 5'8" or 5'9" high, pretty nicely shaped with brown hair and eyes who wore glasses and a cap. I also noticed the tatto on the left side of his neck (his left side). Instantly I realized who it was. Fucking shit, it's Pierre Fitch, the gay pornstar! I stared right at him as I walked past him. I think he realized I was staring, but he was on the phone with someone, so it was easy to ignore me.

After I took a table at the Saloon, Pierre and the guy he was with came trotting in and sat down only a few feet away. It was so awesome. Pierre isn't just any pornstar. If I could have ever picked just one to run into, he would definitely be the one. However, after enough eavesdropping and observation, I realized he's not my type personality wise. I would probably think he's a total dick after thirty minutes. He just seemed like he could be dismissive about things, but I can't be sure. It's not like I stood over his shoulder. I did try to surreptitiously take some photos with my phone, but they are so blurry I didn't include them in my photo gallery. It was cool to have dinner so close to him.

Read more about Leather Jacket Love Story on IMDB
See the Archambault Musique site
See the Les Invincibles TV series site
Visit the Pierre Fitch online site
Visit the Saloon Restaurant site

Sift through photos of the day

Les mots du jour: canneberge (cranberry), arôme naturel (natural flavor), livraison (delivery),  plateau de jeu (game board), urbain (with regard to music, it's club music), pour boire ou pour manger (are you here to drink or eat?), illimitée (unlimited), serveur/serveuse, vente en gros (wholesale), congres (convention), requins (sharks).

Aug. 29th, 2011

Coy

The Wilds Within Montreal: Parks, books, and bars

It was the first full day that was fully sunny all day long. I was pretty excited about that fact, and I decided it was perfect day to go around to the larger parks.

Breakfast with Squirrels

I grabbed a croissant and juice at the local Java U and headed off to my first park, Parc la Fontaine. As I walked around, I figured I ought to document the architecture along the way, especially because it was so beautiful. I could describe it to you, but that's what the link at the end of this post is for. However, there's more story here.

When I got to the park, I wasn't sure exactly where I was on the map. I looked around and found some benches not far away. I decided to sit down and eat. Of course, the ubiquitous debris of fallen branches in variable sizes reminded me of Irene's long distance relationship with Montreal from the previous day. I sat down on the bench and chowed down. Only moments later did a squirrel appear. Not only that, it wasn't long before a second one appeared. And a third. And a fourth.

My little breakfast time gang turned into little beggars. I was only a third of the way done, when one of them jumped up onto the bench and started sniffing about my open backpack. I kept nibbling away to slowly consume their motivation to be around me. Yet, I felt small tugs of happiness that they were around preventing me from devouring my meal entirely in one fell swoop. I decided to photograph the interaction instead. The one bold squirrel got so close to me, it sniffed the lens of my camera. Again, see the link below for pictures.

The Path to the Fountain

After I finished my breakfast, I walked around the park, taking one path to the sports fields first. Along the way, I helped a woman pushing a stroller by clearing away a larger branch from the asphalt walkway. She thanked me, and I went about my merry way.

I consulted the map I had taken from the summer guide to gay Montreal. I reoriented myself and found the right path to go toward the lake where there was a lot more to see. There were a few statues/sculptures around the park honoring different explorers and leaders from the past. The lake was fairly sizeable and at the northwest end, there was an octogonal fountain that shot many streams of water up into the air.  The water fell back into the bowl of the fountain and then slipped over the curved edge down into the vast body below. I sat there for a short while soaking in the calmness of flowing water.

About midway between the northwest and southeast ends of the lake, there was a bridge that lead to a lakeside amphitheater. It was locked up, but I could see the fairly large stage, ample seating and moderate "moat" that separated them. There wasn't ever an opportunity to see it in action, but maybe next time I will get to watch a performance there. Water run underneath the bridge and fell into the lower level southeast portion of the lake. It also sounded soothing, but I was ready to move on to more.

The High Point: Parc du Mont-Royal

I walked down Rue Rachel toward the much larger Parc du Mont-Royal with even more statues, water and sights to see. It was a bit of a walk, but the sun made it worth the while. Along the way, a woman started talking to me as she passed me on the left. I didn't understand a single thing she said, but she pointed to my bright, neon green shirt and made hand gestures to mimick a shirt giving off light. I thanked her assuming she was complimenting me. She asked me what time it was, and it took me nearly 45 seconds to tell her it was 10:30. I am quite certain she figured out I didn't speak French as a first language.

I made it to the park and "hiked" my way up to the top. It had plenty of more gradual paths, but I took the steeper ones to get to the top faster. About halfway up, there was even a wooden staircase that I took to acend even more quickly. Along the way, I saw several people in exercise wear, jogging, hiking, walking, chatting, litening to music and so on. It was a very lively and active park, especially considering it was 10:30 on Monday.

At the top of my climb there was a large terrace at one end of which visitors could look over South and East Montreal. It made a lovely view. There was also a château with a large ballroom area, models of the park using lego like pieces, café seating and a small "snackbar" setup of vending machines. The interior design made it look like it was made for modestly sized weddings, which was a lovely romantic thought.

My First Poutine

I walked around a bit more and I talke very briefly to a man who asked me in French where a specific street entrance. I understood him completely, but it took me a while to formulate a response. He started to ask me again in English where it was, but I finally told him it was not far away. I wanted to tell him it was about a quarter kilometer away, but I couldn't get that sentence together.

I descended the mountain and returned to Rue Rachel where I had found a restaurant called Frites Alors. It is a chain restaurant with several locations in Montreal (and perhaps elsewhere). What's more, they serve several kinds of poutine (pronounced "pooh-teen"), a fantastically salty and fatty dish made from fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. I ordered the poutine Frites Alors, which had mushrooms, a small amount of diced peppers and a few sauteed onions in addition to the basic poutine mix. It was a wonderful mix of yum that travelled across the field of delighted and thankful taste buds right down into my satisfied tummy.

Turning a Page

I returned to the hotel to rest for a while, but then I trekked back out to find a bookstore. I wanted to see what I might buy that would be interesting to read. I perused many a cover and ended up buying Sans Lois Ni Dieux (without laws or gods). It seems like an interesting story with death, politics and sex. Yay! Of course, it's in French.

I went back to my room, freshened up a bit and then went out to dinner. Later that night, I went to one of the bars, Complexe Sky, and had some white wine on tap. I had never seen such a thing before, but it was cool. I didn't really talk to anyone (apart from the bartender). It was pretty dead, and I still felt quite shy about trying to talk to anyone in French. Afterward, it was off to bed, wondering what the next day might hold, as I planned to venture in a different direction toward downtown.

See the Java U website
See the Frites Alors! website
Read about Sans Lois ni Dieux on Amazon
Boogie down on the Complexe Sky website

View the pictures of the day on Picasa

Lets mots du jour: pour apporter (getting something "to go"), renaturalisation (to restore the ecosystem/natural habitat), épicerie (a kind of mini-grocery), nettoyeur à sec (dry cleaner), ésoterisme (new age/esotric ideology), solde (on sale).

Aug. 28th, 2011

Silly

Irene Reaches My Vacation

It was cloudy when I first awoke. Boooooo! I think it may have rained during the night, but basically, hurricane Irene made its way up the East coast and managed to impact Montreal weather. I decided that I needed to do something indoors.

Shopping

After a quick breakfast, I looked around the stores on the strip. I ended up at a neat gay boy clothing store called Evolution. I looked around at the many open chest, ribbed, tee and other shirts, in a wide variety of colors. I tried on a few, and the very cute, 5'8", brown hair, brown eyed store clerk gave me some advice on which colors seemed better suited to me. I ended up buying a couple of shirts.

After that, I went to Bedo, a Canadian clothier. There were many things that were interesting at first glance, but very few things that really seemed to grab me. I tried on one shirt, a zip-down textured polo-like sage green shirt, which I decided to buy.

My last shopping stop was at Fétiche Armada, which was displaying some interesting underwear in their windows. I had to stop by and check it out. I perused the clothing and quickly glanced over everything else. I stopped around the European style Private Structure underwear in low rise trunk style with solid bright rainbow colors and picked up a couple before leaving.

Check out the Evolution boutique website
Check out the Bedo website
Check out the Fétiche Armada website

Bikes For Rent

If you think Portland is a bike town, you're in for a real shocker. In Montreal, there is a bike rental business called Bixi where people can rent bikes from large bike racks, pedal about the city for a modest fee and rerack the bikes when they're done. It's the bicycle version of Zipcar, kids, and it looks like it's fairly popular. If someone can replicate and monetize this concept in Portland, we may be back in the race as the best bike town ever.

Read more about Bixi on Wikipedia

Biodome: More Than a Zoo

I stopped shopping after my morning exploration of the clothing stores, and took the rest of my time to go to the Biodome, Montreal's indoor zoo with climate controlled areas to house a rather amazing variety of animals. The climates that they had included tropical, temperate, tundra and artic. It was pretty amazing, and I managed to take a number of pictures in the tropical area before my camera conked out. Damn It! I should have planned better.

Well, the rest of the exhibit was moderately interesting, with the arctic climate being the next most interesting part of the zoo. There was one more thing that I waited around for. They had a birds of prey presentation that had just finished when I got done with the climate controlled zones. I had to check out the few other fossil and timeline type exhibits for about forty minutes before the next presentation started seating. Once I got seated, I enjoyed the presentation. They talked about and showed us an owl, a hawk and a falcon. It was in French, and I barely caught any of it. However, I sat right in the flight path of the falcon, whose wings brushed a light wind across the top of my head while darting for perch slightly behind me and to my left. It was pretty cool.

Bring Your Wine

Apparently, this exists here in the states, but Montreal was the first time I saw Bring Your Wine (Apportez Votre Vin) restaurants. In fact, I decided to see what it was all about, and I ended up eating dinner at Steak Frites on the strip. It was actually kind of a downer. Given that they didn't have to worry about liquor licensing, you'd think that prices could be a little bit less, but oh no. Not only that, the neighboring elder gay couple complained about their fries being over done. After they did that, I thought perhaps maybe mine weren't so great either. Overall, I'd say the restaurant sucked, but the concept of bring your own wine still fascinates me.

Early to Bed

It was so ridiculously windy and wet, I didn't want to do anything but go back to the hotel room. I watched the news that night and listened to reports on hurricane Irene, the damages on the U.S. East coast and specifically, the impact on New York with some bits about the impact on Montreal. At some point, I heard that there had been 40 deaths due to the hurricane. Also, it looked like New York had been mildly flooded thanks to Irene.

There was one other interesting thing on the TV that night. When was the last time you saw a commercial for an adult sex store on mainstream television during "family hours". It wasn't especially early, but there was a commercial for Boutique Séduction during the news reports. WTF? That doesn't happen in the U.S., does it? I remember the commercial well. It showed a regular man and woman in casual clothing casually checking out the videos, clothes and other ecoutrements of the intimate kind like they were in Barnes and Noble or Safeway. It was kind of cool, actually.

Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Check out photos of the day on Picasa

Les mots du jour: pain doré (french toast), spéctacles (shows, presentations, displays), la croûte terrestre (Earth's crust), la veille (the eve. The news talked about the eve of hurricane Irene), vols annules (cancelled flights), fait des heureux (makes things better, happier).

Aug. 27th, 2011

Sassy

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).

Oct. 22nd, 2010

Pensive

Wisdom and Prejudice

One cannot gain any wisdom on the path of prejudice.

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