Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Canada Miscellaneous Musings

Monday 22

First day of the conference was really hard. I still have jet lag and I sat from 0900 till 1800 in the conference room and was sleepy/tired the whole time. I fell asleep for a few minutes too many times to keep count of and each time I woke up I felt OK for about 20 minutes or so, then my eyes started to close again. It was very hard going. And the speaker was so slow on the topics, it didn't help. Luckily, the first day covered setting up the computers (which I already did in Australia) and some introductory topics, which I already understood fairly well. After 1800, I staggered up to my room and dozed off for another hour. I had set my alarm so I wouldn't sleep too long, so I can try to synchronise myself with Canada time. But it still isn't working, it is 0400 here now and I feel quite awake. :-(

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Tuesday 23

I woke up again at 0300 but feel OK for now. Helen's boyfriend arrived last night and lost his wallet on the bus from the airport. I think they were chasing around after it last night. They got the wallet and cards etc back, but seems they are $200 in cash lighter. After that I think they probably got out of it lightly.

Now it is lunch time. They are feeding us too much, I'll probably fall asleep cos of the food. I will have to go for a walk tonight. I think I will try to visit the souterrain. Museums are open late tomorrow night, so I'll visit at least one.

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Wednesday 24

It is now 11:00pm and I am off to bed. My time shift is better, I only fell asleep once in the seminar today. At 16:30 I went out to walk around the town to get myself sleepy and force me to stay asleep. Did about 5 hours walking tonight (add that to 6 hours Saturday, 4 hours on Sunday but none Monday as I was too tired).

It is afternoon break time...

I might go to the art museum tonight. Last night I got 6 hours sleep, the most I have had in one go since last Thursday. I was talking to 2 of the other Australians (there are six here in total, including Helen and me) both of them were having trouble sleeping too and one of them said he was taking sleeping pills! It's much more of a problem than I was originally thinking. Most of the participants are Americans with a couple of Canadians thrown in too, but there are two South Africans and two Malaysians as well. Tonight there is a company arranged game of “Walleyball” which is supposed to be like volleyball played in a squash court. Not me playing, though :-)

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Thursday 25

Yesterday I did go to the art gallery, I saw an Andy Warhol exhibit. Thursday I was far to tired to go out. I slept for about 3 hours after the course finished and were still too lethargic to do much. However, by 2300 I was a bit hungry so I went for a walk along St-Denis street to see what was open. I was a little surprised as a fair number of restaurants were open, even at this late hour. I finally sat down in a little Italian restaurant which had a front which was open to the street. Apparently the original owner came to Montreal in the 50's and tried to set up a sidewalk restaurant, but the council kept fining him. The arrangement of the restaurant seems to be a compromise between the footpath and being enclosed. I had a nice pizza there and was a bit bemused as no less than 5 fire engines tried to get down this narrow section of street. I don't know why they turned up, probably a false alarm.

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Friday 26

The course finished in the early afternoon.

I only went to the Economusee du Fier Monde, a few streets away. This is a very local museum, which concentrates on local information (for local people?). It has a permanent exhibition relating to the history of the area and a temporary one which covers contemporary events. Unfortuneately when I visited, there was no temporary exhibition. The building was made out of the old “Generaux Bains”, the swimming pool. The pool still exists and forms a central open theatre for the museum.

After that I was still very tired, a current theme of this trip. I went back to the hotel and slept for four hours in the early evening again. When I woke up it was raining, so my weekend plans might have to change somewhat. I went out at midnight to the latin quarter (again) to get a yiros. I have been eating too much, so I have to cut back.

I tried to get in contact with a number of couch surfing hosts in both Montreal and Quebec. There are not so many in the older age groups, they are mostly 20 somethings. I tried 6 contacts, ( 2 men, 2 women and 2 couples). None could put me up for any nights, but one (Daniele) offered something. She said she had a chap staying with her and we could all go for a walk around her neighbourhood on Saturday or Sunday.

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Saturday 27

I'm still suffering from odd sleeping patterns. I tried to get in touch with couch surfer Daniele, but she didn't answer the phone, so I went out to try to arrange for a short tour to Quebec. My original thought was to just book into a hotel and do the walk around thing. Sadly the weather looked like it was going to rain for the rest of the week due to the hurricane. I decided it might be less wet to arrange a bus tour, so I went down to the local information centre near Dorchester Square. There has a very long line and slow line so I went to have breakfast in Dunn's Diner. After I had a cheese omelette there I went back to the tourist info place to speak to the bus tour people. This didn't go so well as the tour I actually wanted to go on ended for the season last Wednesday. I tried to get some information about the other tours, but they told me all the Monday tours were cancelled due to lack of interest and to come back Monday to see if the Wednesday tours were going ahead. Simple to say, I wasn't going to hang around for a “possible” tour in 4 days time. I went over to the general information area and spoke to a nice lady called Alma who showered me with brochures (my Mrs Bucket “Holiday Brosshures” :-) . She booked me into a room in Quebec in the old part of town. I had a quick look at the Cathedrale Marie-Reine du Monde and then went to the central railway station to check out their timetables. With not much else to do I then wandered through the subterranean town to the McCord Museum of Canadian History. It is a small museum focussing on Canadian history. They did have a temporary display on the ground floor about womens fashion (it wasn't as naughty as the advertising makes out). If it isn't raining too much tomorrow I might go to the market or the Mont Royal Park. I spent a couple of hours at the McCord and then caught the Metro back to the hotel, for another afternoon sleep. I rang up Daniele and found that she and her guest, John, had already visited the Jean Talon Market, but they were half planning on a walk to Mont Royal the next day. I got Daniele's address and had a quick check on Google Earth to see what would be the best way there from a nearby Metro station.

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Sunday 28

I caught the Metro to Rosemount station and jumped off to walk to Daniele's place. I wandered around in the general direction of her apartment. The area here is, unsurprisingly, more residential than areas I had been to earlier. It was extremely deserted I thought, even for 10:00 on a Sunday morning. There are numerous shops along the main thoroughfares and typical three storey buildings on all the side streets. Overall it looks to be an interesting area. When I got to Daniele's place, she and John were almost ready and shortly after we went out on our trek. First we went up to Mont Royal. A fairly steep climb for my old legs. Not withstanding the walking I have been doing, the mountain was a little bit of a struggle. The weather has been cool and overcast, but fairly humid. I was a bit sweaty by the time I was finished. After icecream at the volunteer's shop to the west of the park we headed back through the cemetery. At the bottom of the cemetery we came out into a more upmarket residential area, full of new BMW's and four wheel drives. By a circuitous route through some parks and along Rue St-Viatuer back to Daniele's place. By this time John had to pack and leave for his next destination. I helped him carry his pack to the bus stop and then said a final farewell to Daniele. Back on the Metro for the hotel and a final afternoon snooze.

Daniele lives in Montreal and works as an english/french translator, mostly for banks I gather. She is a french speaker from birth. It was her house that I visited. It seems she had a boyfriend/husband who died some while ago. John was couch surfing there, he is an American, I asked him where he was from and I think he (and his family) had moved around a fair bit. He had lived in some Southern US states, including Florida, but now lived in one of the states just across the border (maybe Wisconsin?). He was travelling and making a film. I got the impression he was “working” for his brother and he was travelling for some other reason, but doing the filming as extra as the opportunity arose. He had already filmed other locations up the US east coast. Panthererouse is the couch surfing username that Daniele uses. I didn't put any names on there for anonymnity. The big mushroom on the tree was in the cemetery, there were lots of them, on the trees and on the ground. The cup and balls are a feature of the local restaurant. Daniele took us there to show us them. I am still not sure what their relevance was, other than a restaurant gimmick.

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Monday 29

I am almost ready to check out of the hotel (as I write). I went down to the foyer a half hour ago but it was really busy (Monday morning check out). I have had an interesting weekend, not too busy, but I was pretty tired from the jet lag and week before.

I took the bus to Quebec this afternoon and am now in a hotel for 2 nights in the old part of Quebec. Very touristy and expensive. I had a 2 hour walk this evening, and had tea in an Italian restaurant, it was very nice and had many waiters and even an accordian player but my cranberry juice and spag bol with chicken cost ca$35 (with tips) about Aud$45. Then I went back to the hotel. I saw a big flock of geese flying over honking, that was good, then I fell asleep at 8pm and slept for 6 hours, which is one of my better nights sleep. It is about 0300 now. Wednesday 1

Now I have just walked in to the Vieux Quebec Hotel.

It is 10:00 and drizzling. I had to back pack from my other hotel, which wasn't far away, to here.

Last night I was fairly tired so I laid down at about 19:00. I was thinking of getting up and going for a night time walk but it was getting very windy. The wind howled outside, and I heard all the passenger ships in the quay (less than a km away) blast their horns. But the weather was really off putting and I didn't have the spirit to get up.

In fact when the sun came up this morning my window was completely misted over (inside the hotel). Although the room wasn't cold, the glass itself was cold as ice and heaps of moisture had condensed on it. I got up for a 6 am walk and started to another part of Quebec which I hadn't been to, but not only was it cold and windy, that's when the rain started spitting down, so I retired to the hotel after being out only 15 minutes or so.

I visited the Ursuline museum yesterday. They don't allow photos to be taken, otherwise I could have shot off a few for you. They also had a reliquary, but not of Ursula, of one of her companions, I think. There was the back part of the skull and 6 small bones. Rib fragments and fingers.

And then on Wednesday night I lectured a class at O'Sullivan College (!)


Well it wasn't a lecture as such. Another couch surfer (Richard) who I contacted last week, asked me if I wouldn't mind having an informal chat with his ESL (French=>English) class. I said OK, but when I turned up his boss (Pablo) had decided that he would include his advanced English class with Richard's intermediate class and I got to stand out the front and talk about Australia and things in general to engage the students. I thought I might not like it too much as I don't normally enjoy standing out in front of groups, but this wasn't too bad after all!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008


The Bonsecours Market contains a number of upmarket galleries and shops dealing in jewellery, art and craft on the middle level. There are also numerous restaurants on the lower level. When I was there one of the upstairs rooms appeared to be holding a fashion show.
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Notre Dame 2

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Notre Dame 1

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Since Thursday night...

Since Thursday night...

I seem to have been mostly running for planes because there wasn't
enough check in time and then the planes have been late.

I got about 4 hours sleep then I got up and went to the
airport. I was there at 0500 for the 0600 flight which wasn't really
enough. After about ½ hour in the line the PA announced all the
passengers in the check in line who had to catch my flight should
immediately go to the front of the line. Everyone(!) in the line moved
up to the baggage counters.

Then the plane backed out of the parking bay, but couldn't take off cos
the plane in front of us broke down... then got to Sydney with about 1.5
hours to transfer. It took about 30 minutes to get to the Air Canada
check in desk where they gave me my boarding pass which said boarding
would be at 0910. It was 0900 when I got that! Then run for the security
(my bags were checked at Adelaide) to be held up for explosives
screening (they seem to pick me out about 30% of the time) while I
fretted about the time. As it was, the boarding pass must have been
wrong as the plane didn't begin to board till about 0940. And then we
sat on the ground for another 20+ minutes.

Anyway, it wasn't all horrors. The plane was a newish 777 which was
clean and had a fairly good entertainment system. I watched 4 movies all
the way through and 2 part way. One was an interesting old 1945
Agatha Christie, “And Then There Were None” which seemed like a good
movie but we ran out of time and had to land. The flight was 14 hours
and I got 2 naps of about 15 minutes.

One of the meals was really nice (maybe I was hungry). It was a beef and
cheese roll, but it had vegetable sticks, carrots, cucumber and
something else and a tomato dip called Kasundi. The dip was really excellent.

We got to Vancouver and landed at about 0700 their time. On the way in
there in the last hour or so it was just flat cloud with a few mountain
peaks, just poking through. I don't really know where this would have
been, because if we came straight in to Vancouver from the west, we
should have passed over hardly any land at all.

I had a window seat but I didn't really see anything for almost all of
the trip. It surprised me I saw a few islands, which I think was the
eastern extremity of New Guinea. We must have flown up the east
coast, but I couldn't tell as I was on the right hand side of the plane.

I got out of the plane and collected my bags (about 5th to last off the
carousel) and walked out. It was pretty deserted, most of my plane load
had gone through just before. Even though it was Friday, none of the
airport shops etc had opened. A customs lady standing apparently in the
middle of nowhere asked for my arrival declaration after I had just come
through immigration. She read it and marked it with green highlighter.
She told me to go over to a particular line, which also was deserted and
I walked through some doors expecting to go through quarantine and bag
checks, but I was out into the airport exit area (still deserted)! Helen
(who bought her boyfriend along) came in on a 1030 arrival flight and
said the customs process was exactly the same for them too, although she
said it took them 2 hours to get out of the airport, which included 1
hour on the ground in the plane waiting for a gate to clear so they
could park.

Once I was at the airport I rang the hotel and found that they had a
spare room and I could book in, so I caught the shuttle bus, booked in,
had a shower (lovely), tried the free internet, found I couldn't send
email or web mail and then went to bed a bit after 0900.

After about 3 hours sleep (making a total of about 8 in 2 days) I caught
a taxi to the main part of Vancouver. I spent about 90 minutes at the
aquarium. They have white Beluga whales, with a calf. I tried to take
some pictures but they didn't turn out too well.

I walked around the seawall about 3-4km and then into the
city. The art gallery was closed when I got there but went into “Sears”.
I went to a shopping centre called “Pacific Centre” and had tea in the
food court there. A “salad” shop where you pick out your salad from
the salad bar and buy it by the kg. Just like I do at the work canteen,
but about ½ price to what ETSA canteen costs. I actually didn't get
any salad. I bought their special, which was a bowl of soup and an
egg sandwich.

The weather was overcast and cool. All in all I walked about 6 hours.

I am still semi Adelaide time. That evening I went to bed at 2200 and
woke up at 0200 (Vancouver Saturday morning) and read.

I caught the plane for Montreal Saturday morning (it is 0600 Sunday
morning here in Montreal as I type). We left the hotel at 0700 for an
0830 flight. The airport is only a few km from the hotel, so I wasn't
worried too much. But what a mad house. Completely different to my
arrival. I won't describe it all, but it seems that Vancouver has only
just introduced (in the last few days) electronic check in. But they do
it in such a disorderly way. I had to ask an Airport Lady how to use the
check in machines. Similar to the Adelaide ones, but you print (and put
on) your own baggage tags. Then you line up to get your tag scanned,
then you line up again to drop your bag, then you line up again to go
through security. This plane was a bit more crummy and it was buy your
own meal too(!). But I was so tired I fell asleep for probably an hour
or so altogether, in little naps. It was a four hour flight and we
gained 3 hours flying across Canada so arrived at Montreal in the
afternoon at 1630. Helen, who was on the same flight, but sitting down
the back, has left her boyfriend in Vancouver. I think he was going to
do some sight seeing there. They arrived later than me and it sounds
like they only spent about 1 hour or so in Vancouver sightseeing on
Friday. Helen got three seats to herself, but I got stuck with a big fat
Canadian bloke who overflowed into my seat (yuk!). And he was a drinker
and I could smell the aldehyde coming off him (double yuk!).

After checking in to the Montreal hotel (Double Tree),
this one is a bit swish.

I went for a walk along Rue Ontario (I think, I still might not have my
bearings yet) and then a little walk in the Quartier Latin. Check it out
on Google earth on your laptop. It is a really interesting place. French
speaking for the most part, although people will speak to you in English
once you have started, all the signs seem to be in French only and the
default spoken language is French. There are lots of restaurants and
arty shops along the Rue Ontario and the Latin Quarter didn't seem much
different. I walked for another 2 hours or so before I got my tea, chips
and a chicken burger at “Frite Alors!”.

I have worked out where the nearest Metro station is (not far) and I
think I will explore a further part of the city tonight. I have found a
Persian restaurant on the internet, near a Metro station about 5 km away.

It's now 0625 Sunday morning (I woke up again in the early hours and
it's taken me about 60 minutes to write this. I am a slow typer.)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Montreal at night

Across the road from the hotel I am staying at is this unusual building. I went out for a long walk along Rue St-Denis to find some tea.
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Friday, September 19, 2008

Vancouver Architecture

Some quick shots. From top to bottom, The Vancouver rowing club building.
Reflections of one tower in another.
A building called the Qube. Fully supported at the bottom by the central core with no glass curtain walls on the lower floors. Looks very unusual.

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Vancouver things in the air

A skein of geese over the river and a floatplane (DHC-3 Turbine Otter) taking off. The floatplane area is packed, lots of tourists, there seemed to be a takeoff about every 10-15 minutes. There were also some nice radial powered DHC-2 Beavers.
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Spent the afternoon at the Vancouver Aquarium

I spent some time at the Vancouver Aquarium in the afternoon. The pictures are :
Pipe eels
A Beluga whale.
The Aquarium has a number of outdoor pools for their larger mammals which include, not only the Beluga, but a number of smaller dolphin types.

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Nearly There

Half hour or so outside of Vancouver, the cloud cover is flat as far as I can see with just the tiny tips of the mountains peeking through.
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Monday, September 01, 2008

Stormy Sunday

The waves at Port Noarlunga were strong and the spray was higher than the jetty.
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