Trip Start Jan 08, 2006
Trip End Apr 01, 2006

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Flag of Canada  , Quebec,
Saturday, January 21, 2006

I haven't got lost in the car for three days!

I would take rare skill, I have discovered, to get lost here. The roads are of course North American Standard compass aligned, the cars have compasses in them. The sea (the St Lawrence river), is to the south, and Mount Royal is in the middle. If I can't see the mountain for the rain/snow/derision, then the building next to me is kitted out like a lighthouse, and I couldn't miss it if I tried.

Today, it rained; heavily. This was not what I wanted since I was planning to go to the Marché Jean Talon. Well I went anyway, and it just got heavier after I left the shelter of the Metro.
On the way to the Marche, I walked through little the rain. It looks a lot like little Italy in Brunswick, Melbourne and Leichhardt, Sydney. Crappy stores with really crappy wedding clothes in it. How can a country with so much style in it, beget so many offspring around the world who think that small children in white tuxedos look good
The Marche wasn't worth the walk. I left soon after arriving and played my wet weather trump card. The Montreal Car show was on.

Well, I wasn't wet any more, and I saw a couple of cool cars...see photos, but apart from the GT40 and the new AC Cobra (0-100km in 4.2 sec), there was little else to make me go "Phwoar"!

Luckily, I walked out to the toilets and that's when I noticed how it was a blizzard outside. Yahooo! After three days of rain, the weather had returned to normal. Here was my chance to get out and about in the old town again and see it when its dressed to kill.

Last night, I walked for two hours around the old town, marvelling at the beautiful buildings and street lighting. There is a skating rink down on the river and at 2130 last night, I was there watching families make laps in the moonlight. I almost died on my way down and back though because of the layers of ice covering the underutilised paths to and from the rink.

I had found a beautiful restaurant called "Chez le Epicier" and I wanted to do lunch there. (I figure that lunch is less sad alone than dinner. I wish I could articulate the reason, but doing so may break the spell, and I'll realise that it is just as sad and lonely in daylight as night) Imagine my surprise to find that they only open at 1730 on Saturdays!

I could have screamed after having walked all that way, but no one would have heard me with the deadening effect of dumping snow. I checked it out, and I was right. No one rushed to my aid my anguished soul so I just walked into a nearby art gallery and warmed up while I hatched my dinner plan.

Last night after my grand tour of the old Montreal, I walked back to a pub only blocks from home, and enjoyed a quiet ale. Without someone to talk to, the conversation is a little flat, even though I do love the sound of my own voice. To pass the time, I jotted notes for my trip and planned a whole new business to venture into. The plans grew pretty grand after the second beer and I will be surprised if there's room for anyone else to make a buck in the world when I'm done. Well, this morning it didn't look quite so grand a venture. That is the problem with travelling alone, there's no on e to cut directly to the point and say...."your talking crap Matt!"

(I am writing this in the lounge at the Hilton. The hors d'ouvres are excellent here, and many contain cinnamon. It seems to be a Canadian thing to add it to all sorts of strange things. I just had pate on a cinnamon toast. Linda from Mont Tremblant gave me the recipe for a type of pork rillettes from Quebec.
Porc chair, des oignons, beaucoup d'ail, cinnamome, and clous des fleurs.)

Montreal is really a very beautiful, grand city; the buildings reach for the sky on a massive scale which leaves a pedestrian feeling very small. The dwarfing feeling is enhanced by the very size of the public spaces. The roads are all very wide. The foyers, and corridors which pass in and around the buildings, are very wide with ceilings that may as well not be there for all their presence entails. Ten people could comfortable walk abreast throughout most of the underground city.

Almost all spoken language in the areas I have been to is French. There are English pockets and of course Chinese and Italian. The ethnic presence on the street is Asian, African, and European in similar proportions. Big ones, small ones, fat ones and thin ones, all bustling along in the cold, and then strolling in the warm buildings and the sous-terrains.
My French is going well, and I am reading "the Da Vinci code" in French at present. I use it all the time, and find that I am speaking in a sort of pigeon English to Native English speakers now. I had trouble speaking with a Scottish woman today. She was harder to understand that the French.

There are still beggars here, although they earn tips by opening doors for people. When you say no to their calls for a few cents, they are as likely to say, "ok, have a good day". One beggar today at the Marche was in a very expensive outfit, on a mechanical wheel chair, with nice rugs wrapped around him. Someone cares for him. I never tip normally, but when its cold and taking your hands out hurts, and when a smiling, craggy, wrinkled face reaches out and opens a door for you, then it seems the right thing to do.

There is a regular smell of marijuana smoke on the streets too. It really stands out as there is little smoking of tobacco inside or out. I have now walked about 8 hours outside and through some pretty quiet remote places and I have always felt very safe here. Everyone I have met has said how much they love living here. I can only agree. I need to see it in summer now!
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